FROM THE BOOKS OF
Music and Musical Hook*
210. SHAFTESBURY Av.cn
LONDON. W.C. 2.
1'rnin tin' ////, of tin- nrti*t.
A* H, SCOTT
FAMOUS MAKERS OF CREMONA AND BRESCIA, AND
OF ENGLAND, FRANCE AND GERMANY (WITH BIO-
GRAPHICAL DICTIONARY); FAMOUS PLAYERS; AND
CHAPTERS ON VARNISH, STRINGS AND BOWS
REV. H. R. HAWE
WITH 13 FULL PAGE PLATE
UNIVERSITY OF TO
WILLIAM REEVES, 83 CHARING CROSS ROAD, W.C.
The New Temple Press,
Norlniry Crescent, London, S.W.16.
PRELUDE . . . . .7
I. VIOLIN GENESIS . , . .15
II. VIOLIN CONSTITUTION . . . .22
III. VIOLINS AT BRESCIA . , . -30
IV. VIOLINS AT CREMONA . . . 42
V. VIOLINS AT CREMONA (continued) . . 60
VI. VIOLINS IN GERMANY . . . ,91
VII. VIOLINS IN FRANCE , . . .104
VIII. VIOLINS IN ENGLAND 4 . , ,118
IX. VIOLIN VARNISH . . . .146
X. VIOLIN STRINGS , . , .153
XI. VIOLIN Bows . . . ,161
XII. VIOLIN TARISIO . . . .171
XIII. VIOLINS AT MlRECOURT, MlTTENWALD, AND
MARKNEUKIRCHEN . . .186
XIV. VIOLIN TREATMENT . . . .198
XV. VIOLIN DEALERS, COLLECTORS, AND AMATEURS . 214
POSTLUDE . . . . . .237
DICTIONARY OF VIOLIN MAKERS . . . 239
BIBLIOGRAPHY . . 281
DESCRIPTION or PLATES 287
WHAT is the secret of the violin? Why is it that
when a greas, violinist appears all the other soloists
have to take a back seat ?
The answer is: the fascination of the violin is the
fascination of the soul unveiled.
No instrument the human voice hardly excepted
provides such a rare vehicle for the emotions is in such
close touch with the molecular vibrations of thought
and with the psychic waves of feeling. But whilst the
violin equals the voice in sensibility and expression, ib
far transcends it in compass, variety, and durability.
Consider the singular completeness and perfection of
this instrument as a sort of physical and vibratory
counterpart of the soul. The four strings no doubt
limit and define its compass, and only in the quartet
and collectively, is it capable of extended effects of
complex harmony ; but as a tone-producing instrument
and within its limits it is perfect every gradation of
sound between tone and semitone is attainable, and for
no other instrument can this be claimed.
8 OLD VIOLINS
Next I observe that the violin possesses a trinity in
unity of power which invests it with a quite singular
and felicitous completeness of its own :
(1) Accent and in staccato passages almost the
accent of percussion.
(2) Sustained sound to a degree far beyond the
capabilities of the human voice,
(3) Modified tone and in such refinement of grada-
tion, that the melting lines of the spectrum, can alone
supply us with a parallel or analogy.
Your piano possesses accent, but once strike a note,
soft or loud, and it passes beyond your control.
The piano has little sustained and no modified tone.
Your organ has accent and sustained tone, but in a
very imperfect sense modified tone ; and a brief survey
of all musical instruments now in use will convince the
student of acoustics that nowhere but in the violin do
we find to anything like the same degree, that trinity in
unity of power summed up in accent , sustained sound,
But the half has not yet been revealed. The trinity
of power in the violin is placed under the immediate
control of two hands of ten fingers, each hand func-
tioning differently. The hand on the finger-board is
engaged in pressing the strings ; the other hand wields
the bow, and not only sets the strings in vibration,
but drives, tears, plunges, caresses, checks, prolongs,
magnetises and regulates, in an altogether marvellous
fashion, the outpourings of sound, which are in reality
the outpourings of the musician's soul, and further :
Has it ever occurred to you, my reader, how diffe-
rently the same piece of musie, or, for the matter of
that, the same violin, sounds in the hands of two
A few of Paganini's solos were written down, and
Sivori, who passed as his only pupil, was in the habit of
playing some of them ; yet no one was ever wrought
to frenzy or melted into a passion of tears by that
elegant performer. I have often heard him. The
gentlemen in the orchestra remained calm, and listened
with admiration and approval But when Paganini
played, the drummer on one occasion so shook with
excitement that he was utterly incapable of playing his
part at all, and Professor Ella, then a violinist at the
first desk, went up and did it for him, whilst the other
violinists were so lost in wonder that they could hardly
concentrate their attention sufficiently to come in at
When Paganini raised his bow on high, it came
down on his four strings with a crash. What made it
sound like thunder ? It was the thunder in his soul !
When his violin wailed with sweetness long drawn out,
why did the tears roll down the faces of hardened
orchestral veterans, and even great virtuosi like Lindley
and Dragonetti ? Why did the people just go off into
fits of laughter when a comic vein seized the prodigious
Maestro in the midst of his variations on the Carnival
cle Venise ?
I have heard Wieniawski play his since much
hackneyed "Legende" it may have been somewhere
10 OLD VIOLINS
*n the sixties. I never heard anything so weird spirit
voices in the twilight the wail of lost souls one
positively saw ghosts. I have heard the " Legende " a
hundred times since by Neruda, Nachez, Sarasate, and
I know not how many more, but I have never again
What was it ? It was the mystery of touch. The
language of touch is but half understood, but the
language of touch is the language of soul, and the
perfection of touch is reached when a sensitive finger
controls a vibrating string or nerve and sends its own
psychic thrill along the waves of sound or sensibility.
The same no doubt is true of the pianoforte touch,
though in a less degree, because a percussive touch
can never have the power of a sustained and modified
Eecent science has thrown some curious sidelights
upon this same sense of touch. It affirms that the
trained fingers of the blind actually acquire from
exercise, practice, and adaptation, new nerve-cells filled
with grey matter exactly similar to the thinking and
feeling grey nerve matter of the brain in fact, the
fingers of the sensitive musician have the power of
thought and emotion delegated to them; and just as
thinking matter is not confined to brain cells, but
extends all down the medulla oblongata, which responds
to stimulus, even when the head is cut off so we now
know that brain cells may be acquired, I had almost
said cerebrated, and used even by the fingers.
Now, supposing we bring these thinking, pulsating
finger-tips and wed their subtle pressure to Waves of
sound, who shall say that these special sound wavei
may not be so impregnated with brain waves as that
sound thus charged with soul may convey through the
auditory nerve to other souls the passion, the emotion,
the sorrow, the joy, and whatever else is generated in
the heart and brain of the musician ? 'Tis not more
inconceivable than thought-reading.
This goes far to account for the personal fascination
which players exercise through their art. Their soul
waves becoming brain waves, float out, charged with
whatever is in the musician ; and if there is nothing in
the musician, as not unfrequently happens, they float
out charged with nothing !
The witchery of the violin for collectors is perhaps
more difficult to explain. Very often these fanciers
don't play, and still more often they seem to have an
objection to other people stringing up their treasures
and playing on them. It is the construction, not so
much the sound of the violin, that deprives the collector
of his senses; but we ought to be very thankful to
these monomaniacs, for without them there would be
few masterpieces still extant ; through them the violin
goes into a period of Devachan, or enforced rest. At
all events, it cannot be worn out, or chipped, or rubbed,
or trifled with by repairers whilst in the collector's
All the finest violins are known and carefully stalked
the health of their owners watched ; and when the
time comes, they either find their way to the open
12 OLD VIOLINS
market or are picked up briskly by the great dealers,
sometimes for fabulous sums. Mr Hill of Bond Street
thinks nothing of a thousand pounds for a really tine
specimen of Strad.
Watch the collector exhibiting his treasures to a
select company after lunch. You will soon see he is
not the daft creature whom the uninitiated who only
want to hear the fiddle are apt to suppose. He knows
the influence which that old Gasparo or Maggini had
upon the Cremona school. He marks with admiration
the emergence of the Amati and Guarnerii from the
Brescian models ; for him even the quaint long//'s of
the old makers stand in lovely contrast with the more
graceful but still pointed sound-holes of Joseph or
more rounded ones of the great Antonius. To him
that ancient viola cut down from a larger-sized model
of viol now extinct, and placed side by side with an
Amati tenor, is as interesting as the study of com-
parative anatomy to a scientist.
Then your collector is never tired of dwelling on the
perfection of those forms which slowly emerged as the
survival of the fittest in that exciting quest for the
sensitiveness, sweetness, and sonority of tone which
occupied the lifelong meditations of Nicolo Amati and
Stradivari. Anon he will call your attention excitedly
and sympathetically to the grace of the curves, the sur-
face never flat or board-like, but full of a variety of
levels like the satiny surface of a fine human body.
You might almost believe that a whole system of musoie
very living organism lay beneath the " back " and
belly, which to his eyes are alive with swelling and
undulating grace ; and then think of the varnish like
a sheet of thin jasper, at once shielding from decay,
whilst revealing as years roll on the transparent fila-
ments of the mottled maple or sycamore and the pine,
and crossed between the fibres with millions of tiny
rays which betray the desiccated cells now fit for
resonance through which the sap once flowed!
But I must not anticipate matter which more pro-
perly belongs to violin manufacture. I only wish to
affirm, in justification of the existence of players, hearers,
and collectors alike, that the violin charm has its own
I may perhaps be pardoned if I close this prelude
with some words which I used before the Eoyal Insti-
tution in 1872.
" The violin is perennial. It grows old with its per-
petual youth. There is no reason why it should ever
wear out. It sings over the graves of many genera-
tions. Time, that som 3times robs it of a little varnish,
has no power over its anointed fabric.
"The hard durable substance steeped in silicate-like
varnish has well-nigh turned to stone, but without
sacrificing a single quality of sweetness or resonance.
" The violin is the only fossil which still lives, and
lives with a fulness of life and a freshness that contrasts
quaintly enough with the fleeting, sickly, and withering
generations of man. Even should mishap bruise or
break its beauty it can be endlessly restored. It is
never fit for death ; it survives a thousand calamities ;
14 OLD VIOLINS
nay, even when cut up and dismembered, its several
parts, scattered through a dozen workshops and three
hundred years, live on with a kind of metempsychosis
in new forms, and still cling strangely to their indivi-
duality, so that men taking up a patchwork violin say,
' It is fine the front is poor, the head is tame, but see
here is a Stradivarius back ! '
" Thus human in its power and pathos, superhuman
in its immortal fabric, the violin reigns supreme, the
king and queen of all instruments and, in the handy
of a Paganini, a Joachim, an Ernst, or a Sarasate, Wie
joy and wonder of the civilised world. 5 '
To me it has always appeared unimportant and not
very interesting to answer the question, "Were or
were not the ancients by which we usually mean
Babylonians, Egyptians, or Greeks and Komans
acquainted with the fact that stretched strings could
be set in tonal vibration by means of horse-hair, reed,
or some other fibre?" They knew most things, and
how much they knew we are only now beginning to
At one time we thought that even the Komans did
not know that water rose to its level, but they were
well acquainted with the fact.
We pride ourselves upon the triumphs of modern
surgery, but we now find that the Egyptians were also
great surgeons and operated successfully for calculus.
The wonders of electric telegraphy are doubtless of
modern origin, but the Greeks were at least aware of
the attractive properties of amber, which they called
"Electron," though they made no use of electricity,
and they may very likely have been acquainted with
the principle of rubbing, as they certainly were of
plucking, a string in tension to produce a sound
16 OLD VIOLINS
without ever elaborating the idea in an instrument for
Both F6tis and Vidal deny that any instrument of
the viol tribe existed in antiquity, apparently on the
slender grounds that the few fragments of pottery,
papyrus, or mural decoration known to us have not
yet revealed the fact. I think it probable that these
savants are wrong. Like the use of the wheel, bow
and arrows, bow and string for drilling holes, the bow
or something like it employed for musical purposes is
likely, on a priori grounds alone, to be of immense
antiquity, and at least as old as the knowledge of
percussion instruments such as the drum, or of wind
instruments such as the pan-pipes.
I don't lay any great stress upon pictures of stringed
instruments with something like a bridge taken to
prove the existence of a bow, especially if the bow
happens to be absent a guitar has a bridge but no
bow, so has the zither and the bandoline, which are
plucked with the fingers or a plectrum. The much-
talked-of Canino Vase (fig. 103, vol. iii. of Micali's
Storia Degli Antichi Popoli Italiani), showing appa-
rently a sort of instrument with apparently a sovt
of bow, has been held by some to be conclusive that
something like the violin tribe was known to the
Etruscans. Possibly ! Personally I am not satisfied
that it is a musical instrument at all which is figured
on that same vase it might be anything, from a rattle
or a torch to a broom or a dust-pan. The strongest
point in its favour as a musical instrument is not the
VIOLIN GENESIS 17
rough image on the vase, but the fact that a musician,
astronomer, and doctor, hy name Chiron, is seated
We probably see the descendants of any such in-
struments as may have existed in those times in the
Kavanastron, which has been recognised by some as
the oriental precursor of the occidental fiddle.
Altogether, I think that, from the musical point of
view, too much time, and a surplus of barren anti-
quarian lore, have been bestowed on the origin of the
Our business begins not even with the building up
of the viol out of the Eebek, Crouth, and Kotta (see
" Music and Morab," p. 382), but with the emergence
of the violin tenor, violoncello, and double-bass out of
that confused, tentative, and often grotesque crowd of
viols and viol da Gambas, specimens of which are
still exhibited behind glass in our Art Museums and
Loan Collections. We have little to do with them.
They are of no more living account than the Egyptian
mummies in the British Museum. A few retain a
gleam of practical importance for the violin collector,
because they have been cut down for tenors or other-
wise used up during the last three hundred years
by violin makers: the others remain of interest to
musicians only; like the bones of fossil crocodiles,
they are curious studies in the comparative anatomy,
not of reptiles, but of musical instruments, that
No, it is with the distinct evolution of the violin, by
18 OLD VIOLINS
which I mean the violin tenor, violoncello, and double-
bass types, from the nondescript, dusky, tubby, un-
gainly machines, muffled in sound and dubious in form,
that for me at least begins the history and the interest
of the violin tribe.
The genius of these elect types is inseparably con-
nected with song sacred song.
Viols were used in churches to play chants in unison
with the monks' voices (probably also to assist their
defective musical ear). When the singing-schools of
Italy arose and divided the voice into treble, alto,
tenor, and bass, a suitable viol was told off as the
companion of each voice. Soon after this the modern
divisions, the octave and the discovery of the perfect
cadence, laid the foundation of the art of modern
music (Monteverde, 1570). The violin emerged.
The endless discussions as to exactly when the violin
proper made its appearance, or the tenor proper, or
when the viol da Gamba got modified into the current
violoncello size and shape, will probably continue to
agitate those whose minds have a special aptitude for
such researches. A very general statement will pro-
bably satisfy general readers, and even special lovers of
The name of Duiffoprugcar haunts this dim transition
period, and although the violins extant under his name
have all been discredited, and not always distinguished
from Vuillaume's clever forgeries, I remember one of
the first judges in Europe, who was certainly quite
alive to the tricks of the trade, showing me a reputed
PLATE I (to face page 19y
A Duiffoprugcar viol da Gamba, owned by Mr George
Donaldson. This matchless antique is doubtless one of
many, but most of the rest have perished ; it stands
almost alone as a poetic specimen of the phantasy of
the old viol makers. It is elaborately decorated on the
back, after the taste of the period, with an excess of
ornament, which the fine instinct of the subsequent
makers of violins rejected as prejudicial to tone. The
habit of adopting a creature's head, or a face, for a
scroll long lingered, and is not unknown in the work of
Stradivarius. In England numerous copies of Duke
that have been palmed off as original have lion heads.
These instruments were usually "made in Germany,"
and it appears to have been a favourite practice there
to use such carved scrolls.
VIOLIN GENESIS 19
Duiffoprugcar (hung and labelled in the South Ken-
sington Museum), which he then believed to be
genuine. It had lost the tubby characteristics of the
viol tribe; it was, in fact, an early Brescian violin,
linen-lined, but its claim to be a Duiffoprugcar was
Duiffoprugcar was born in 1514 at Fussen, in the
Bavarian Tyrol. He was an inlayer and mosaic worker.
He is now known to have visited Paris, and to have
worked at Lyons. There is a fine portrait of him
etched by the engraver Wariot in 1562, and a curious
viol is extant by Mm, with a map of Paris inlaid at
the back, once owned by Vuillaume, and within recent
years secured for the Brussels Conservatoire Museum
by its intelligent curator, Mr Victor Mahillon. Mr
Donaldson's beautiful viol da Gamba is the only other
known specimen of his work. There is no evidence
that Duiffoprugcar ever made what we should call a
violin, and very good negative evidence to the con-
trary. In a curious old print exhibiting his portrait,
a copy of which is owned by Messrs Hill, amongst the
various viols represented no such instrument as the
It is easy to see how inevitable was the differentia-
tion of the violin tribe from the first moment that
a vocal quartet came to be conceived of. First the
viol is selected to double a part, next a viol is made
in a modified way to suit the part, and very soon the
modification assumes the forms and proportions known
as violin, viola, and violoncello.
20 OLD VIOLINS
But in the early days of violin genesis the instrument
was quite subordinate to the voice ; it only gradually
conquered its independence with the emergence of the
string trio and string quartet. It would happen
Two people would meet to sing, and the missing
tenor or bass voice would be supplied by a viola ; or
three would meet who could not sing at all, when it
would occur to them that the vocal parts might be
played instead, and with even more accuracy perhaps
than the very average voices would attain to.
The instrumental trio and quartet thus at once came
Next, music would be written independently for such
combinations, and the voices would be egged out alto-
gether, and presently the treble or violin would show
a tendency to throw the others into the shade, and
at last be thought worthy of a solo all to itself, and
thus the independent position of the instrument would
quickly be established.
All attempts to date exactly the stages of this
differentiation of the violin tribe are likely to be
You cannot say exactly when perspective was dis-
covered or rediscovered by the Italian painters, it
developed gradually; and so the violin developed
gradually, born of new musical needs and new musical
In the midst of the old chaotic world of viol noises
that preceded it, the struggle to displace the old viol
VIOLIN GENESIS 21
players and the slow disappearance of the whole clumsy
craft is aptly summed up in the words of one who lived
at the moment of transition. He writes
" In former days we had viol in
Ere the true instrument had come about ;
But now we say, since this all ears doth win,
The violin hath put the viol out."
ONE of the subtle charms of the violin is that it may
be called bisexual.
It unites in itself and welds together the masculine
and feminine qualities.
Its very fabric is bisexual. The soft, easily moved
vibrations of the swelling front are controlled, checked,
and yet excited by the slower and harder pulsations
of the maple back. The porous deal and the close-
grained maple or sycamore thus thrill together, and
each supplies the deficiency of the other, both blending
in harmonious and sympathetic union, the ribs welding
the back and the belly into an organic whole, whilst
the sound-post, poetically called by the French the
soul of the violin (I'dme du violori), collects the quick
and slow vibrations, and fusing them, produces the
subtle resultant of violin tone.
That tone is the offspring of neither back nor front,
nor ribs alone, but of all these differently vibrating
surfaces, collected and made musical in the "soul,"
and poured forth as the breath of life from the / /
holes as out of the very mouth and nostrils of the
violin. Surely the children of the violin are nothing
VIOLIN CONSTITUTION 23
but the sweet and subtly compounded sounds that
The bisexual figure holds good even to the bow
and strings. The bow is the male and the strings
are the female elements. They can only vibrate when
touched swept into a tempest of emotion or caressed
into tender whispers.
They wait and pine for this magic touch, and long
for their own fulfilment. They are so sensitive that
they respond to the lightest feathery kiss of the
powdered and anointed horse -hair they murmur,
they sigh, they scream, they weep, they laugh, but
only when smitten, coaxed or agonised, sometimes
almost torn, at others calmly and masterfully swept;
whilst the finger-tips, pressing out the vibrations and
generating those magnetic thrills which go forth charged
with the musician's very thought and feeling, aid and
abet the masculine power of the bow. They are its
ministers; without them the might of the bow itself
would be impotent; without them the very strings
would be unable to yield their infinite variety of tone
and inflection of meaning. Yes, certainly the violin
is of all instruments the most human, personal, and
sympathetic, for the violin is truly bisexual.
It is also a miracle of art, strength, and simplicity
we may say at once, as light as a feather and as strong
as a horse. It is composed of thin sheets or slips of
wood, only about a fragment of an inch thick; but,
by the simplest and soundest mechanical construc-
tion, these are so put together as to resist a stram
24 OLD VIOLINS
of about a hundredweight upon the belly, neck, and
tailpiece, from the tension of the four strings.
Six sycamore ribs and twelve internal blocks and
linings suffice to hold the back and belly together.
The neck carries the ebony finger-board and lifts
its characteristic scroll or head so expressive that
makers can almost be recognised by its physiognomy.
The neck is let solidly into the ribs and fastened
against the lower part of the belly. When firmly
glued it is extremely difficult to detach it, and once
only in my experience has the neck of a violin proved
unequal to support the enormous pull made upon it by
It was in Ceylon. The heat was intense and moist.
I had borrowed a violin for experimental purposes
in one of my lectures at Colombo. In the middle
of an attempted passage the neck quietly doubled
up; the strings fell in a loose cluster. The glue
had liquefied, and the whole fiddle came to pieces in
my hands. What no time nor wear and tear had
been able to effect had been suddenly achieved by
the peculiar hothouse, vapour-bath treatment of the
The early viol-makers no doubt at first selected their
wood empirically; but it soon became an established
rule to take a soft wood for the belly and a hard wood
for the back. If all were soft, the sound would be
muffled and tubby ; if all were hard, the sound would
be metallic and light; neither must the thickness of
back and front be uniform each must be thicker
VIOLIN CONSTITUTION 25
towards the middle, but how thick or how thin must
depend upon the relative densities of the wood. The
problem was to find the relative densities which would
best vibrate together a cunning connoisseur in timber
can judge of these densities even by the feel of the
wood. Of course the densities will affect the tone
yielded by the wood when set in vibration, and it is
difficult to believe that Stradiuarius and his school
were unacquainted with some exact technical method
of testing the acoustic properties of these woods.
Monsieur Savart's experiments with specimen strips
of Stradiuarius backs and bellies showed that in most
cases tested there was the difference of one tone between
the belly and the back. A 1717 and a 1708 Strad
back both yielded a F f , a 1724 and a 1690 Strad
bellies gave the interval, so that Stradiuarius worked
his backs and bellies on some regular principle. On
examining specimens of Joseph Guarnerius, it was found
that his best were made with only a full tone between
back and belly ; but occasionally the interval was greater.
The sound-bar is a subtly proportioned strip of pine-
wood running nearly all the way down the middle of
the belly inside. The increasing tension of the modern
pitch has made it necessary to strengthen all the old
violin sound-bars, as the increasing demands for execu-
tion have compelled the lengthening of all their necks.
It is needless to say that the sound-bar readjustment
is a delicate surgical operation, more difficult than the
substitution of a long violin neck for a short one, for
the neck no more affects the tone than the screws in the
26 OLD VIOLINS
head. But any blundering with a sound-bar is fatal to
the nervous system of the violin ; the wolf may sud-
denly be evolved that horrid dull growl which sets
the teeth on edge, and which, once generated within the
violin, is so difficult to diagnose or to cure. The best
old masters finished everything inside their violins as
carefully as the purfling and the joinings which would
meet the eye, and this although a century might elapse
before those tiny smooth blocks in the angles, or that
carefully-cut close lining of wooden strips fitting neatly
to the bellies as a glove to the hand, might chance to
be seen at all.
Many forgeries have thus been rudely unmasked, the
forger only having troubled to make clean the outside
of the cup and platter, whilst within you find the dead
men's bones of his slovenly dishonesty.- He worked
only to sell, and to sell by deception (not because he
cared for his craft or respected his instrument), and his
works do follow him ! But as Mr Lowell says
" Men as worked thorough is the ones that thrive,
But bad work follers you as long as yer live ;
Yer can't get rid on it, just as sure as sin,
Tis allers askin' to be done agio."
The finger-board is of black ebony ; in the old fiddles
it was often inlaid. There need be little said about it
except that the old masters would be puzzled to know
what a player could want with our long finger-boards,
and still more would they have been puzzled could they
have heard the extraordinary and complex effects we
VIOLIN CONSTITUTION 27
manage to produce with our extended compass and
phenomenal shifts, in spite of the absence of frets to
The FINGER-BOARD must be kept smooth and even,
or it will not be possible to " stop " fifths or any other
chord in tune. You will notice in old finger-boards the
strings have worn deep channels, which of course mar
the vibration. The height of the strings above the
finger-board is to some extent a matter of fancy, and of
course depends on the height of the bridge. A child
or young girl would soon be discouraged with attempt-
ing to press strings raised too high above the finger-
board, and of course the higher you ascend the harder
must be the pressure. On the other hand, if the strings
are too close down, the touch is no doubt light to your
heart's content ; but you cannot get a sufficiently full
vibration, and your tone will suffer.
The BRIDGE! I had almost said the asses' bridge, for
indeed thereby hangs a tale. The hard-wood bridge,
with its whimsical perforated visage, and its two slender
feet clinging closely to the smooth belly of the violin,
has been sometimes treated with scant courtesy by
writers, and even makers do not all seem fully alive to
its importance. I notice repairers will send you back
your violin with a bran-new bridge, and no apology, if
they happen to have mislaid or broken yours. But the
bridge not only exercises the most important and indis-
pensable functions of carrying the four strings under a
combined pressure of seventy pounds, but it is in closer
and more intimate contact with the instrument than
28 OLD VIOLINS
any other of its appendages. It is so squeezed upon
the wood as to be almost pressed into it, far more so
than the finger-board or the tailpiece, or even the
blocks and linings. It is charged with the primary
vibrations from the string* and the secondary vibra-
tions of the belly, side, and back; nothing goes on in
that wondrous air column enclosed in the violin walls
without the bridge taking cognisance of it, and possibly
hindering or aiding and abetting its successful exit from
I am aware that I have been thought fanciful in
this matter, but an experience of many years has
convinced me that it is not easy to get a bridge that
suits a violin perfectly, and most dangerous to trifle
with the close and quasi marital relations which exist
between the violin and its bridge. I' dislike new
bridges. I love old ones ; and why, when all the rest
happens to be old, is the bridge alone to bring the raw
sap of youth to vex the mellow and desiccated repose
of melodious age ?
The position of your bridge, like that of your sound-
post, the adjusting of your screws, the thickness of
your strings, belongs rather to the management than
to the constitution of the violin.
The only further details fit to be noted here seem to
be the button supporting the tailpiece, which has a
character of its own, in its size, material, and fixture ;
and the far less important tailpiece, to which we may
add the purfling and other occasional inlaying.
The TAILPIECE, of course, is strictly indispensable,
VIOLIN CONSTITUTION 29
but it does not much matter what it is made of, or
how it is decorated.
The PURFLING, although occasionally resisting
damage to the outlying edge, is chiefly ornamental,
and consists of three thin strips of wood two ebony
or whalebone, and one of white wood glued together
In the purfling we have the last survival of the
inlaying as applied to musical instruments. You will
notice that the further you go back the more elabo-
rately inlaid are the viols and violins. It was thought
that the instrument, which was little more in those
days of rudimentary music than a toy, might fitly be
exploited to show off the conceit of artists and the
skill of cabinet-makers; but as music developed and
tone was reckoned all-important, every detail likely
to interfere with this new development gradually dis-
appeared, till in the hands of the Cremonese makers
the faint memory of all the gorgeous niother-of -pearl,
ebony, ivory, gold and silver embossing, survives only
in the narrow three thin lines of the purfling which
strike the contour of the instrument and give piquancy
to its form.
And thus the perfect sounding violin, though de-
nuded of all superfluous decoration and meretricious
adornment, yet remains a miracle of art "a thing
of beauty and a joy for ever."
TUB violin proper is an Italian creation. It comes
from the north of Italy. Stainer, it is true, is an early
maker, and he bore a German name, but his date is
after all 1621-83, whilst that of Maggini is 1590-1632;
and if you visit the frontier village of Absam, near
the town of Hall, where he lived, you will observe that
he dwelt on the high-road between the Tyrol and
Italy, and that his training, his talent, and his market
But Brescia was really the home of the violin, and
there is possibly something in the heavy salt seasoning
of the Tyrolean pines which specially favours that
peculiar resonance, sensitiveness, and durability for
which the Brescian and Cremonese schools are famous.
The name of G-asparo di Sal6 (Bertolotti was his
real name), now chiefly famous for his double-basses
and violas, must ever be revered by students as the
master of the great Maggini, who was in reality the
father of the violin, in the sense of having clearly, at
once and for ever, differentiated the instrument as a
Salo is a lovely spot on the shores of the lake of
VIOLINS AT BRESCIA 31
Garda, in the province of Brescia, and about twenty
miles from the big town. It was early famed for its
culture. Foreigners went there for the sake of its
schools, and the Corporation records show that sacred
music especially flourished there. It is now certain
that Gasparo migrated thence to Brescia and worked
in that town. Maggini was as certainly his pupil.
This is proved by a legal document, dated 1602, which
has lately been discovered, bearing the joint signatures
of Gasparo and Maggini, who is termed his " garzone,"
Gaspare's share in violin-making proper could not
have been very great, as the earliest violin orchestral
music appeared in Italy in 1608, and Gasparo died in
1610 or thereabouts a fact which, taken in connection
with the extreme rareness of any Gaspardian instru-
ments which can be called violins, seems to argue that
the piccolo violino which was presently going to be
master of the situation was only just creeping up.
I have seen and played on one very fine Gasparo
violin, the property of Lord Amherst D and A strings
rich and pure, 1st and 4th rather muffled, but on the
whole the tone is mellow and powerful.
This almost unique Gasparo violin is still bulgy, but
a great improvement on the old viol build; the head
is long and quaint-looking, but lacks that finish and
character which later masters put into their scrolls.
Gasparo's basses are still much sought after, and
Dragonetti possessed more than one.
A giant specimen, known as the Duke of Leinster's
32 OLD VIOLINS
bass, may still be seen at the South Kensington Museum,
and I exhibited it at the Koyal Institution in 1872.
His work is heavy and lacks refinement, but his tone is
grand and full-bodied.
Gio. PAOLO MAGGINI was the child of his father's old
age, and born at Botlicino, near the town of Brescia,
which afterwards became the family headquarters.
Brescia was at this time a strongly fortified place,
and a print as late as 1764 probably gives us a fair
notion of what it looked like between 1560 and 1632.
Swift brooklets ran down the streets, and outside the
walls were spreading woodlands and ploughed fields.
It boasted of a splendid brick palace, the Broletta, and
a massive belfry of rough stone (Torre del Popolo), a
Castello, and an old Duomo ; the streets were adorned
with frescoes. The Cathedral of San Pietro de Dom
was famous for its music, and had an organ and full
orchestra. The viol-makers and the monks were then,
as they have since been, in intimate relations, and it
was a couple of monks who befriended Gasparo when
he was down in the world in health and fortune, and
sadly needed it.
The princes of Italy at this time (1512-1630) were
great patrons of art, letters, and especially music.
Brescia in 1600 was under Venetian rule. The town
or fortress was from its very position constantly in the
midst of wars and rumours of wars, and was appro-
priately famed amongst other things for its manufactory
of swords and armour.
It is surprising how little military commotions seem
VIOLINS AT BRESCIA S3
to have affected, either at Brescia or at Cremona, the
manufacture of musical instruments. There seems to
have been an uninterrupted line of viol and cither and
lute makers at Brescia from 1300 and onwards.
But when it is remembered that war does not inter-
rupt the functions of religion or diminish the impor-
tance of the clergy (nay, often enhances both), we can
understand that the musical instrument makers might
have been as much in demand, in the stormiest times of
the Visconti and Medici, as druggists, soothsayers, or
mountebanks ; and they probably made impartially for
friend or foe for any one, in fact, who could afford
Up to within the last few years very little was known
of this man Gio. Paolo Maggini Magino or Magicino.
As he put only the name and place, but not the date,
on his labels (all dated Magginis are therefore frauds),
it is not easy to assign fixed dates to any of his instru-
ments, and the personal information to be squeezed out
of them is of the meagrest description. He worked in
Brescia ; few of his instruments survive. His violas are
as rare as Gaspare's violins, but he distances all other
makers in the attention that he gave to that new-
fangled and suspiciously regarded instrument, the true
His handwriting, some of which survives, would lead
one to suppose that his education was very moderate,
but the signatures of illustrious princes of this period
are no better. Eecently, however, the State Archives
of Brescia have revealed some interesting gleams of
34 OLD VIOLINS
information which enable us to show him in his work-
shop with one apprentice, Franchino, and a young
wife, aged nineteen, Maddalena Anna, who brought
him a dowry, and afterwards children.
A picture of his house in the Contrada del Palazzo,
Vechio del Podesta, lies before me. It has but two
storeys, and the family lived upstairs, surrendering the
ground floor to the violin business.
In a woodcut by Jost Anian, Zurich (1539-91), we
have an authentic picture of such easy, leisurely, calm
workers as Maggini
There is the rude substantial bench, the tools, the
glue-pot, the planks and the wood in blocks, bits of
fiddles and strips of timber hung up on the walls ; the
aproned artificer is carefully trying a lute as he sits on
his three-legged stool
What simplicities ! Were we to enter in imagina-
tion the studios in which the greatest pictures in the
world were being painted about this time, the same
meagre appliances and absence of superfluous luxury
would doubtless have greeted our eyes.
But our gorgeous modern studios hung with the
spoils of the East, and iridescent with precious pottery
and curiously worked metals, our modern workshops
with their exquisite mechanical appliances and all sorts
of labour-saving machines, somehow fail to rival in
quality of production those old masters who sat on
three-legged stools, ground their own pigments, made
their own glue and varnish, and chopped and chiselled
their own wood.
VIOLINS AT BRESCIA 35
If you consider Maggini's period (1560-1632) you
will see how exactly the direction of his genius was
conditioned by the demands of his age.
The singing-schools of Naples had resulted in a call
for stringed instruments in increased numbers, but the
old viols were seen to correspond ill to the altered
times, and the need for an instrument which would
render leading melodies effectively was felt just in
proportion as such melodies became multiplied with
the rise of vocal music, sacred and profane.
Most writers on the violin seem to have a passion
for cutting up a maker's life into periods, as though
a man could rise one morning and say, " Go to now,
let us enter upon period number three, in which the
back shall be sloped so, and the belly brought down
thus, and the curve of the bouts tilted, contracted, or
elongated thus." All that can be safely said is, after
such and such a time Maggini or Amati dropped or
adopted this or that feature as a rule, and we may
infer that a maker came under such and such influences,
and so forth.
Now I come to speak of Maggini, I will trace
roughly but clearly what may be called hia continuous
development, rather than any so-called three periods.
Naturally at first the pupil made like his master
Gasparo. His violins suggested big viols on a small
scale. They had a heavy look; they were of large
size, which makes the sides seem lower than they are,
for jta reality the ribs are not higher than those of
36 OLD VIOLINS
The heads look rough, because, with the reduced
size, no increase of refinement or delicacy has yet
been reached; now, they are cut without symmetry;
now, the fluting of the scroll is not smoothed, even
the grooves for the purfling are not neat, nor is the
purfling itself sharp.
Maggini's early backs, sides, and bellies are cut on
the slab that is, across the grain.
Then Gaspare's sound-holes have got narrower in
the hands of his pupil, and Gasparo has probably got
credit for some of the improvements of Maggini, as
there can be little doubt that some violins labelled
Gasparo are the work of his pupil, just as early
Stradivari violins are in existence signed Nicolo
If I may hazard the remark, in my opinion Maggini
did not copy so long or BO seriously the work of
Gasparo as did Stradivari copy Nicolo. The reason
is obvious. The stride between Gasparo and Mag-
gini is far greater than that between the late Nicolo
and the Strad. By the time Nicolo died the violin
had already risen to that supreme and independent
individuality and dignity which it has never since
Stradivari got the violin all ready made; it was
Maggini's glory to have assisted at the individualisa-
tion of the " King " type.
Presently we become aware that Gasparo is dead and
buried. The Maggini bellies now cease to be cut on
the slab, but show the long parallel grain lines of the
VIOLINS AT BRESCIA 37
wood as in the Amatis ; the art of wood selection for
sonority and sensitiveness seems already to have reached
the 1650 Cremona level. The sound-holes are more
delicate, but still a little quaint; they are invariably
bevelled inwards, a practice entirely discarded by the
Sir Joseph Chitty's, and Mr Sternberg's, and the
Dumas' tenors are good specimens of Maggini's first
independent work illustrating the above characteristics.
The Dumas family were friends of Beethoven, and
enthusiastic admirers of Maggini's work. They pos-
sessed at least one valuable "chest" of his instruments.
A chest is described by an old writer as " a large hutch
with several compartments and partitions in it, each
lined with green baize" (we have since gone heavily
into velvet and plush).
There are only about eight violas or tenors of Mag-
gini's known ; they do not vary in their proportions.
The model of the Dumas viola is of the master's
most arched type a feature much exaggerated by
Stainer and his followers. It is, like almost all this
master's specimens, adorned with double purfling, set
close to the edge, with the usual Maggini bevel at
the corner joints. These corners give it a special phy-
siognomy ; they are short, and make no appeal to the
eye like the later Cremonas. The tenor's //holes are
upright, short, and broad ; they are higher than in the
same maker's violins, the top curves as usual larger than
the bottom ones, the back and belly both in two pieces ;
the bass bar and blocks inside have been strengthened;
38 OLD VIOLINS
the rough tooth of the well-known Brescian plane has
left its mark on the wood inside. The Dumas tenor
is in exquisite condition ; the varnish is unlike the old
Gasparo brown, it glows with rich golden tints. Its
type is admirably defined; no one in looking at this
tenor can say, " This is a little violoncello," or " This is
a big violin." It is a distinct viola type, and it set the
type for all succeeding violas. The Cremona makers
worked on it, but they did not re-create the tenor;
they could not.
The Dumas-Maggini violin is in equally fine condi-
tion; it looks so new that some have supposed that,
although eighty years before Stradivari, it must be a
copy made by Strad of the older master, but it is
absolutely authentic and genuine.
Before Maggini died, we notice that -a very high
standard of finish has been reached, unknown to him
in his earlier days, or, as for the matter of that, to
any of his predecessors. Observe the improved purfling,
the bouts and mitres cut with clear intention, but
never so marked in physiognomy as the Amatis, the
sound-holes quite as sharp as theirs; but, above all,
the arching has at last come down this true hint,
so early given, was not at once adopted by Maggini's
Cremonese successors. Straclivarius at last fixed it and
regulated it in a model from which no later maker
has found it safe to depart with the exception of Duke
and Klotz, who obstinately adhered to the Stainer high
bellies with deep side grooves.
Maggini's later Tarnish runs out of the old Gasparo
PLATE II (to face page 39^
A Maggini violin (the " De Beriot") owned by Mr
Antonietti. The Maggini here given is an admirably
preserved specimen of the great Brescian master, who,
next to Stradiuarius, did more than any one man to
inspire and define the ideal shape, from which even the
Amati at first departed, but which Strad had the
genius to restore and perfect. The corners, however,
have been rubbed, and not in every case renewed,
otherwise it is in as perfect a condition as can be ex-
pected in so old a fiddle. The scroll is cut with a care
and an advanced finish which reminds us of the bolder
Htrad period, 1700-30. Maggini, oddly enough, was
little honoured in the first quarter of this century, but
De Beriot had the insight to discern his merits ; and
from the time he adopted him for his masterly and full-
toned performances, the Magginis rose, and have been
continuing to rise, in public estimation,
VIOLINS AT BRESCIA 39
brown into orange and golden yellow, as luscious as
anything to be found in a Joseph or a Strad.
Although Maggini adhered to his double purfling,
there are specimens of his work in exhibitions without
it ; and at least one curiously but not carelessly made
instrument is known where the purfling at the back
is neither double nor even inlaid, but merely drawn
sharply in black lines. A very fine single-purfled
violin, formerly in the collection of Prince Caraman
Chimay, now in the possession of Mr Antonietti, pos-
sesses an unrivalled tone of the Maggini timbre. Many
of his violins retain the old taste for other inlaid orna-
mentation. He does not run into maps and portraits,
but a graceful clover-leaf pattern is often found at top
and bottom of his backs, twisted, as it were, out of the
purfling, and a sixfold trefoil sometimes occupies the
centre of the back ; but an acute observer has noted
that there is no instance of the central trefoil com-
bined with the clover-leaf pattern.
Not less remarkable than this great maker's definition
of the violin and viola types was his conception of the
violoncello. The Maggini 'cello is not the son of the
double-bass, but the father of the tenor. It is much
more like a large tenor than like a small double-bass ;
the proportions are, as it were, enlarged from the tenor,
not reduced from the flat-backed bass. Maggmi's
bent was entirely in the direction of the smaller
The early and even the later Cremona 'cellos were
too large, and there is very little doubt that the
40 OLD VIOLINS
powerful influence of Maggini can be traced in the
evolution of those perfect but moderately sized Strad
'cellos which date mostly after 1700.
The tone of Maggini is full, mellow, and plaintive,
rather than biting like Stainer, bell-resonant like
Strad, or soft and sensitive like Nicolo Amati; but
great players like Vieuxtemps, Ole Bull, Leonard,
and De Beriot have found him sufficient, and if more
have not extolled Maggini, it may be on account of
the rareness and inaccessibility of his instruments.
It has been said by a competent authority that not
more than fifty extant Magginis are known, and in
England at present (1897) about thirty violins, ten
violas, and but two violoncellos and one double-bass.
Maggini died at the comparatively early age of fifty-
one. All researches made in the archives of S. Lorenzo,
his parish church, have failed to reveal the date of his
death, and the worst of it is that the registers of that
church prior to 1700 have disappeared.
We hear plenty about his wife, Anna Foresti, who
died 1651, aged fifty-eight, and was buried in a neigh-
It is more than probable that Maggini himself was
a victim to the plague which raged at Brescia in 1632,
and that he was hastily interred, or, dying at the Pest
House, no official note of his death may have been
taken. At any rate, in 1632, the year of the plague,
his son describes himself as " films quondam Johannis
Pauli" the son of the late Gio. Paolo.
His last income-tax return is dated 1626, and he
VIOLINS AT BRESCIA }
was dead in 1632, so he must have died at latest in
1632, and therefore could not have been more than
fifty-one. Maggini was doubtless well off, owned con-
siderable property in and out of town, was the father
of flix children, and, what was ot far more importance
the father of the mociera violiu,
VIOLINS AT CREMONA
CREMONA ! Amati ! two words making melody with their
very syllables, and a deeper harmony still for the lover
of music, from the association of ideas which they
With the assumed immigration of makers from
Brescia the emergence of the Amati family (the
name of Amati is not found in the Brescian archives),
and their final residence at Cremona begins the classic
period of the violia
Cremona, ancient city of strife, which, owing to its
very situation (/cpi #oVo?, " high rock " and " alone "),
was the battle-point of the middle ages from the days
of the old Goths and Lombards down to quite modern
times; Cremona, with its stately cathedral so little
known or visited, yet possessing two of the finest red
lions couchant, supporting portico columns of one of
the noblest cathedral facades in Italy ; Cremona, with
its antiquated back streets, its drowsy quiet life gliding
on apart from the beaten thoroughfares of travel
truly, Cremona town is a place to set one dreaming!
I have narrated elsewhere my pilgrimage to the place
which so ungratefully forgets almost the very tradition
VIOLINS AT CREMONA 43
of the Amati, Stradivari, and Guarnerii, whose fabrics
alone have given it a musical immortality, and whose
names are hung up high like the stars, which no discords
of the middle ages, sieges, or brawls can ever reach.
Let us now try and come face to face with these
Andrea Amati (p&re) settled at Cremona, and made
violins from 1520-46. He brought with him his
brother Nicolo (not the great Nicolo, afterwards
master of Stradivari, Italian, or Stradiuarius, Latin).
Andrea Amati had two sons, Antonio and Geronimo,
who made violins jointly as well as separately. When
Antonio married, the fiddles of neither seemed to im-
prove. The brothers ceased for a time at least to work
together (there being, it is said, a period in which there
are no joint reductions) ; but as there are much later
violins bearing their joint names, it has been assumed
that they again collaborated. If we trust some of these
late labels the brothers being born about 1555-56,
and one of the joint violins being dated 1687 it would
follow that the venerable artificers were still making
violins at the age of 136 years, which beats Stradivari
himself, who only worked till he was ninety-three.
Geronimo, according to one writer's account of his
labels, went even one better, for there is a Geronimo
violin dated 1698; so if this Geronimo, brother of
Antonio, was born about 1556, which is tolerably
certain, he went on working even longer than Moses,
with his eye undimmed and his natural strength
unabated, down to the age of 148 !
44 OLD VIOLINS
The confusion has arisen from confounding G-eronimo,
brother of Antonio, with Geronimo, son of the great
Nicolo (born 1649, died 1740). But if there exists a
signed Geronimo and Antonio dated 1698, which
seems very doubtful, it would be certainly easier to
believe that, as the demand for Italian instruments by
makers of repute had well set in before 1700, the late
Antonio and Geronimo label was stolen from the old
workshops the last two figures of 16 being filled
in, and the label clapped on to cover the fraud ; whilst
any Geronimo violin dated 1698 would be by Geronimo,
son of Nicolo ; or at most, one made up by some enter-
prising pupil out of the debris of the elder Geronimo's
workshop perhaps about the time that Nicolo the
Great, son of Geronimo and grandson of Andrea,
was working with his pupils, Stradivari and Andrea,
Guarnerii, and his own son, the younger Geronimo
or Girolamo Amati.
But with this Geronimo Amati, son of Nicolo (born
1649), and a certain Don Nicolo Amati, an Italian
priest, we need not trouble ourselves beyond recording
A good deal has been said about Andrea Amati and
his violins. He was certainly the founder of the family,
but not much is known about him except that he
probably, almost certainly, acquired from Brescia the
Maggini type, and that his violins are somewhat
smaller, arched in the belly, with a varnish that runs
out of the Brescian brown into the mellow and brilliant!
gold and ruddy tints common to the Cremona varnish ;
VIOLINS AT CREMONA 45
the later Amatis have a tendency to revert to the
That Andrea made some choice violins for Charles
IX. of France twenty-four violins, twelve large, twelve
small pattern, known as " les petits violons du roi "
there can be no doubt, but they disappeared from
Versailles in the political disturbances about 1790.
The arms of France, we are told, were painted on the
backs, and they are said to have been of beautiful
A 'cello, "Andrea Amati Cremonentis faciebat,
1572," was sold amongst some others belonging to Sir
William Curtis, May 1827. This is known as the
"Bridge's viollo." Its history is romantic, it having
been presented by Pope Pius V, to Charles IX. of
France, and surnamed the " King."
The Amati characteristic, which culminates, along
with other qualities of sonority, in the great Nicolo,
1596-1684, is sweetness of tone; but a certain want
of power is noticeable, especially on the fourth string.
The "A" is beautiful, the "E" soft and delicate, and
the third very full and round qualities which are also
conspicuous in the brothers Geronimo,
But if Amati tone is of cabinet, not concert quality,
its quality is of a kind unequalled for charm and
sensitiveness, and although not loud, some violins made
by the brothers have a considerable carrying power.
The Amati heads or scrolls retained a certain sim-
plicity and antique Brescian look even after the finish
and form of the body of the violin had left the Brescian
46 OLD VIOLINS
school far behind. The double purfling of Brescia is
also gone, but the brothers purfled very beautifully,
with a bend of perfect regularity and smoothness.
The violins of Antonio are better than his brother's*
but the joint violins are the best, and have been
The brothers indeed made excellent violas, but, as
the fashion then was, too large. They have been
sometimes cut down. Sir Frederick Gore Ousely once
/ had a fine specimen, which I remember playing upon
|^ many years ago at Tenby tone very full and mellow.
> v ' 't Kichard Blagrove, a brother of Henry Blagrove, the
| admirable early Monday Popular violinist, was a viola
! player, and used a reputed Amati, but it was really a
/ Gagliano. Many of us (1897) can remember how richly
I it contributed to the triumph of a quartet, of which
I Joachim, Eiess, and Piatti were often the other members.
Her late Majesty the Queen had a fine painted Amati,
unfortunately cut down; and Miss Seton's Geronimo
Amati is a rare specimen, and from the MS. of Ascenzio,
a priest at Madrid, we learn that it was a favourite
violin of Charles IV. of Spain.
Geronimo, after separating from Antonio, reduced
the arching of his bellies, but, singularly enough, with-
out improving his tone-power. The over-arching of
the early makers and scooped side-curves are generally
supposed to be a vice in acoustics finally overcome by
the gentle natural curve and flatter models of Nicolo,
but it is perhaps possible to ride a theory too hard. I
have certainly played on instruments deeply grooved,
VIOLINS AT CREMONA 47
with rounded bellies, powerful Dukes and piercing
Stainers, which, according to the orthodox theory, had
no business to sound as loud as they did. It is well
known that in both these Amati makers the late
Cremona flat curve is conspicuous by its absence ; and
whilst I do not for a moment deny that the flatness of
the Stradivari model is preferable, I think the superi-
ority of the late Cremona tone may be due to a good
many other things beside that. It will always be a
question whether the man who makes possible the
last perfection of an art or the man who actually
achieves it is really the greater genius. Pietro Peru-
gino or Kaffaello in painting ; Chaucer or Shakespeare
in literature ; Handel or Beethoven in music ; Gasparo
and Maggini or Stradivari in violin -making ; but
popular opinion generally plucks the blossom without
troubling itself much about the roots, and the prices
fetched by the finest Strad and the finest Gasparo, or
even Nicolo Amati, practically settle the question as
regards the violin-makers. 400 is an unusual price
for a fine Nicolo (250 is nearer the mark, 1898);
1000 is not an uncommon figure for a good Strad,
and his finest specimens command 2000 (1898).
Nicolo, the great son of Geronimo, was born in
1596, and died close upon the seventeen hundreds, in
1684. Nicolo was quite aware that he resumed in
himself the fine qualities of his distinguished family
and improved upon them. It is true he did not
trouble himself much with his grandfather Andrea,
whom he probably regarded as a worthy old gentleman
48 OLD VIOLINS
quite out of date. There could have been little in
those small, almost three-quarter size, brown varnished,
and sweet but feeble-sounding violins to attract the
aspiring grandson ; but there were qualities in the some-
what larger models of the famous brothers, Geronimo
and Antonio, which set his hand and head agoing,
when as a boy he fell to copying and carving backs
and bellies, and twisting ribs and throwing scrolls, in
his father's little workshop at Cremona, opposite the
west front of the Saint Dominic Church.
Nicolo the Great doubtless followed and imitated
his father Geronimo, but wishing to miss nothing,
and perhaps labouring under a sense of obligation or
merely out of genuine affection, his labels embody an
immortal acknowledgment of indebtedness to both
masters. They run thus: "Nicolaus Amatus Cre-
monem Hieronymi Fil, ac Antonij Nepos fecit, 1677."
(The italics are mine.)
Nicolo the Great's smaller patterns made in his
father's workshop are not unfrequently to be met with,
and can be picked up for between 80 and 100, or
But as we watch his dates, the touch of Nicolo very
soon becomes distinctive. On the death of his father
and uncle he found himself in possession of a work-
shop which inherited a great name, but which was
destined to transmit to future generations the greatest
violin names in the world. Among the pupils of
Nicolo in 1653 sat the brothers Guarneri, Andrea
Guarnerius having witnessed the marriage of his master
VIOLINS AT CREMONA 49
Nicolo and signed the register; and by the side of
Andrea Guarnerius sat a young man named Antonio
Stradivari, or, as we usually call him, Stradiuarius.
Most of the Nicolo violins before 1645 are of the
smaller pattern, but after this date down to 1684, the
year of his death, the eye of a connoisseur will notice
an increase in size, a finish in workmanship, and a
more delicate purfle (never double). The model is
still somewhat high in back and belly, bub with an
increasing tendency to get flatter; the side-grooving
is less pronounced, whilst the corners are noticeably
drawn out into finer points full of character, arresting
the eye, lightening as it were the model, and giving
the whole physiognomy of the instrument a grace and
piquancy hitherto unattempted.
The sound-holes of Nicolo are pointed and somewhat
narrow ; the scroll is cut a little too flat for the later
taste, but passes as the century wanes into a somewhat
larger and bolder style. The wood seems to be chosen
almost as much for its mottled or fine-grained beauty
as for its acoustical properties.
The early Nicolo varnish is of brownish Brescian
type, but later on it glows with the rich amber tints
of Creinona, and those dragon-blood stains which give
to some Strads and Josephs such warm and generous
tints like the sunlit dashes of mellow red on a ripe
Mr Somers Cocks (1898) has a most glorious Amati
violoncello, "one of the finest ever seen or heard," so
said to me a distinguished connoisseur. Mr Marshall
50 OLD VIOLINS
Bulley's violoncello, a Jerome (the younger) Amati, is
also a rare gem of tone and workmanship.*
The grand Amati violin pattern runs some of the
Stradivari violins very hard, and is evidently the model
on which the 1700-35 Strads are "caique*," as the
French say. The side -grooving, generally held to
interfere with the volume of tone, whilst supposed by
some to add to its sweetness, has not disappeared as
in the Strad grand model, but it has become less
pronounced. The tone is lovely and sensitive, and
the Nicolo is truly delightful to handle. It is par
excellence the lady's violin.
The one before me, where the varnish still remains,
melts into light orange with clear golden gleams in it.
If Joseph is the strong male, Nicholas or Nicolo cer-
tainly belongs to the softer and more yielding sex.
The tone is most delicate, and of ravishing sweetness.
It seems to leap out almost before the horse-hair has
feathered the strings. It continues to sing on like a
vibrating silver bell, as if intoxicated with itself, long
after the bow has ceased its contact. In the sweet
Nicolo the lover finds no bars, no obstacles ; it is won
almost before 'tis wooed (Plate V.).
We are interested to know that in his own time
Nicolo's work was carefully imitated, if not forged;
whilst his supremacy over one of his best pupils,
Francesco Kugereo, Rugieri, or Kugerius, was clearly
* An unique set of instruments by the Amati family worthy of
mention is the quintett, composed of three violins, a viola, and a
violoncello, now (1898) hi the possession of Miss Willmott.
PLATE III (to face page 50J
Her late Majesty's Amati tenor is in beautiful con-
dition; it is elaborately ornamented, in lieu of the
usual purfling. It was, doubtless, originally made to
order for some great prelate ; and it bears on its back a
noble coat of arms hardly decipherable, and the image
of John Baptist carrying, a lamb ( ' ' Behold the Lamb
of God !" John i. 36). The instrument was used in
Her late> Majesty's private band by Mr Hann (1898).
Like many old viols it has been somewhat reduced in
size. For the loan of this instrument I am indebted to
the good offices of Sir Walter Parratt, director of the
late Queen's private band.
VIOLINS AT CREMONA 51
acknowledged; for we find that a certain Tomaso
Antonio Vitali, who seems to have bought a violin
with a Nicolo label inside, and paid twelve doubloons
(or about 12, 10s.) for it, complained bitterly that on
removing the false label he had discovered the name of
Euggeri underneath it. The aggrieved Tomaso there-
upon applied to his liege sovereign, the Grand Duke of
Modena, for summary redress, avowing that he had
given a higher price because the violin had a label of
Nicolo, " who," he adds, " was a maker of great repute
in his profession, but now it was proved to be only a
violin by Kugerius the pupil, a maker of less credit."
The violin, he said, was scarce worth to him more than
three doubloons; the petitioner therefore prayed the
Duke for redress. Whether he got it or not was no
doubt very important to him, but of very little conse-
quence to us. The fact that he made the application
is the point.
The GUARNBBII family must have made violas or
violins as the sand of the sea in number, if the
frequency of their labels may be taken as any guide ;
and in truth they were a long-lived and industrious
family, and doubtless made a good many instruments,
chiefly violins. But the reputation of Andrew and
Peter, and above all the great Giuseppe (Joseph) del
Gesii, led to the early fabrication of pseudo Josephs,
and labels in numbers far beyond what all the great
makers of Cremona together could have produced.
Andrea Guarneri (Andrew Guarnerius) the appren-
tice, as we have seen, was one of the witnesses to the
52 OLD VIOLINS
great Nicolo Auiati's marriage in 1641, and Nicolo
enters his pupil's name in the church register as aged
fifteen, which gives us the year of his birth, 1626. He
worked on till 1698 ; in 1652 he married, and two of his
sons, Giuseppe (not the great Giuseppe, his nephew)
and Pietro, worthily sustained and improved upon their
Many of the violins of Andrea Guarneri are of the
smaller Nicolo pattern, but somewhat inferior, and not
always well finished. The wood of his rare 'cellos,
however, although plain in appearance, can boast of
singularly fine acoustic qualities.
There is a well-known 'cello now (1897) belonging to
Miss Theobald, of his finest workmanship.
Giuseppe, second son of Andrea Gianbattista
Giuseppe, born 1666 to 1739, as distinguished from
Del Gesu or " Jesus " Giuseppe, struck out a freer line
of work. His narrow-waisted boldly-curved instru-
ments, with their Brescian-looking sound-holes set low
down, his rich, almost too profusely rich, varnish and
fine wood, but not over-finished workmanship, give his
violins quite a characteristic appearance, and in power
of tone they are superior to his father's. But next to
the great Giuseppe del Gesu, Pietro Guarneri is the
flower of the family, and most sought after by amateurs.
The grain of his bellies is often wide, the distance
between the sound-holes is conspicuous, the sound-holes
themselves are rounder and less Brescian, the scrolls are
beautifully cut, and the varnish is superb, from golden
tints to pale red, which has thrown some writers inco
VIOLINS AT CREMONA 53
rhapsodies about setting suns and the colours of the
Passing over a lesser Pietro, son of the lesser Giuseppe,
son of Andrea, who worked at Mantua, we come to tho
one man who, with the exception of tho great Nicolo,
is worthy to measure swords (or bows) with Stradivari.
He came, singularly enough, from a side branch, and
not in direct descent from Andrea or any violin-maker,
being the son of one John Baptist Guarnerius, and was
born at Cremona in 1683.
The father of the great Giuseppe was the son of one
Bernardo Guarnerius, who was a cousin of Andrea,
and therefore the great Joseph was nephew of Andrea
Guarnerius, just as the great Nicolo was the nephew of
Andrea Amati; but a distinguished fact separates our
Giuseppe from all his illustrious kinsfolk, and it is
this, that his father, Bernardo, does not seem to have
been a violin-maker at all, so the young Giuseppe owed
Ms teaching most probably to his uncle and cousins.
Most writers have speculated blindly enough upon
his distinctive appendage "del Gesu," some talking
about the Jesuits or a supposed religious bent. This
is one of the many cases where sapient antiquaries, in
seeking for recondite origins, neglect the simplest facts
and ignore the easiest explanations. What can be
more simple than for the great Giuseppe, conscious
of his superiority to Gianbattista, son of Andrea
Guarneri, as well as anxious to distinguish himself
from Gianbattista, his father, and coming after both,
though preferred before them, should call himself the
54 OLD VIOLINS
"del Gesu," or Jesus, who followed after the John
Baptist of the family? So far from indicating any
particular reverence for religion, the assumption of
this bold title seems to me to partake more of a
certain irreverent levity ; and if, as tradition says, the
great Giuseppe or Joseph was somewhat of a free liver,
and perhaps even a sceptic, he may have had small
scruples in so lightly treating sacred names and subjects.
The question as to who may have been his master,
and the influence (or otherwise) of Stradivari upon him,
has also been involved, as I think, in needless mystery.
Since Del Gesu worked at Cremona and must have
been, as a cousin and nephew, a good deal with his
uncle and cousins, Andrea, Giovanni, and Pietro, who
lived there, it is no great stretch of fancy to suppose
that when he showed the family bent for violin-making,
he should have been apprenticed to study the art with
his cousin Giuseppe, son of Andrea, in which case he
must have lived next door to where Stradivari was
working all through his finest period; and though
Giuseppe's violins are rightly said to be in the style
of his cousin's Gianbattista, and he may have drawn
his early inspirations from his cousin, it is impossible
to suppose that so able a man could be in daily con-
tact with and yet wholly insensible to the influence
of the greatest maker who ever lived. Why, he not
only worked next door to Strad, but probably met
him every afternoon at the neighbouring cafe, and was
doubtless often about his shop, year in year out.
Of course the differences in the work of the two
VIOLINS AT CREMONA 55
great masters are obvious. The massive, bold, and
original lines and less scrupulous finish of Joseph
the Great, the powerful (almost brutally powerful)
scroll, the loud trumpet-like imperious tone, all mark
the masculine as contrasted with the sweeter and more
feminine qualities of the gentler, bell-like Strad. The
fact also before alluded to, that between the back and
the belly of the Strad there is usually but one note,
whilst between the back and belly of the Giuseppe del
Gesu there are sometimes more, all prove sterling and
distinct originality, as Eafael was distinct from Peru-
gino or Michael Angelo from Leonardo da Vinci. But
enough ; for to draw these comparisons before describing
the master may seem like putting the cart before the
So let us now, without further ado, locate the great
violin shops at Cremona and peep into workshop No. 6,
in the Piazza S. Domenico, now Piazza Eoma.
In about 1540, Andrea Amati had set up his modest
establishment, trained his sons, and taken apprentices,
bequeathing to Nicolo his plant and pupils.
Stradivari and the early Guarnerii then worked
together, cheek by jowl ; by-and-by Stradivari migrated
to No. 5, next door, and the Guarnerii with Giuseppe
del Gesu, who died in 1745, the latest and greatest of
that family (surviving Stradiuarius, who died in 1737,
eight years), then set up at No. 6.
As I have had occasion to remark elsewhere, these
three names, Amati, the Guarnerii, Stradivari, there
be none like them; these three shops opposite the
56 OLD VIOLINS
big Church of S. Domenico, now demolished, there
never were nor will be three such violin shops.
Here were made, in long, quiet years of peaceful
labour, between 1560 and 1760, in steady and friendly
rivalry, all the greatest violins in the world.
The Giuseppe del Gesu on which Paganini played,
now in the Town Hall in Genoa, the Stradiuarius on
which Ernst, now Lady Halle (1898), plays, Canon
Percy Hudson's violoncel]o, Joachim and Wilhelmj's
"Strads," the Alard, the Betts, the Dolphin, the
Messie, the Pucelle, the Tuscan, the Fountaine, the
Eode, and the Viotti these be the wonders of the
But in following the development of the Guarnerii
family into the seventeen hundreds, the position of
Giuseppe del Gesu, the king of the Guarneri, must be
clearly defined before we describe the rise ' and progress
of Stradivari, who ran parallel with, and who, in the
estimation of most violinists, seems to combine in him-
self, the ne plus ultra of all violin perfection.
Nothing about Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesu is more
remarkable than the determined way in which, after
examining the Amati types, he deliberately went back
to the Brescian Gasparo and Maggini models for in-
spiration. The time had come when powerful tone
was wanted. The Amatis were sensitive, sweet, and
weak; in the larger and more massive Brescians
Giuseppe found the suggestion of what he was des-
tined to make perfect. If only he could add their
volume to the Auiati sensitiveness an hour more or
VIOLINS AT CREMONA 57
less spent on the cutting of corners or neater purfling
what did it matter? Strength, power, was what he
wanted, and the sentiment is thrown off in the bull-
dog type of his head or scroll, in the thickness of his
boards so much criticised, in the boldness rather than
the grace and delicacy of his curves.
He tried many experiments: flat make, full make,
sound-holes cut almost perpendicularly, shortened,
slanting, and sometimes disproportionately long. He
was watching the effect on the volume and quality
of tone, and when he had in his own way conquered
that secret of grand sonority, whether empirically or
by calculation, then, and not till then, his workman-
He was like a man who had no time to think of the
delicate cooking till he had stayed his main appetite.
His frequent habit of ciitting the wood upon the cross,
d centre sens, as in the case of Mr Alfred Gibson's
instrument (1897), a superb specimen of Del Gesu,
shows up the coruscations of the grain, and brings out
each pore and vein by the agate-like varnish not
agate-like in the sense of the French chippy varnish,
but in its clear crystalline depth and transparency.
Del Gesu's varnish is never clotted, but is laid on
thoroughly, yet with a light hand. Mr Kuskin used
to say that Sir Joshua Keynolds' touch was so light
that he could paint on a gossamer veil; Del Gesu's
brush is also as light as a feather. Some of Del Gesu's
later violins, dating from about 1740, after the death
of Stradivarius, are amongst his finest. The one used
58 OLD VIOLINS
by Professor Sauret, and the other lent to Mr Ludwig
by Mr Frazer, are particularly fine, and belong to this
period. Paganini's Joseph, now in the Town Hall at
Genoa, Alard's, in the Museum of the Conservatoire of
Music, Turin, and Vieuxternps', now in the possession
of Maurice Sons, also belong to this great period.
The life of Joseph Guarnerius is more or less en-
veloped in mystery. It seems, for instance, utterly
impossible to get at the truth about the so-called
prison fiddles. Whenever a Joseph or a presumed
Joseph which is not up to Joseph's standard comes
into the market, it is dubbed a Del Gesu prison-fiddle.
The story runs that Giuseppe, being a somewhat
reckless person, got into trouble and was locked up for
many years, during which time the gaoler's daughter
got him any wood she could find, and he made these
inferior pot-boiling fiddles, which she disposed of for
such moderate sums as she was able.
I prefer to put this legend wholly aside. Del Gesu
may not have held sacred things in high estimation,
and he may have been somewhat of a free liver this
rests on the authority of Carlo Bergonzi's graadson,
who was not even a contemporary of Del Gesu still
he may have got the gossip from Bergonzi, his own
father, who was Stradivari's pupil, and doubtless a
rival maker ; and tongues may wag when interests are
or seem to be opposed, and stories will come forth
finely variegated when there is an extraordinary absence
of reliable facts, as there undoubtedly is in the case of
PLATE IV (to face page 58>
Paganini's Joseph Guarnerius. This is a fine and
very characteristic specimen of the mighty Del Gesu.
It is in his most powerful and massive style (the head
almost brutal in its bull-dog strength), with full rich
colour thickly laid on to match. Seldom, indeed, do
we find so much varnish left on the back of so old a vio-
lin. The instrument has been very carefully dealt
with. The story of how it passed into Paganini's
hands is well known. An Italian amateur, who evi-
dently knew its value, lent it to the great maestro, and,
after hearing its marvellous qualities, as drawn forth
by the Magician of the Violin, declared that no other
hand should henceforth set its chords in vibration.
Paganini left it to his native town of Genoa, and there
it may still be seen in the Town Hall. It was his fav-
ourite instrument ; and the giant Joseph Guarnerius
Mas well matched with the giant Nicolo Paganini,
VIOLINS AT CREMONA 69
There is, however, no direct evidence whatever that
Del Gesu was for years in prison and that he died
there, as says the legend ; but Canon Bazzi of Cremona
has lately unearthed one Girolamo Guarneri who did
die in prison in 1715 and the sanies of two very
different men, one illustrious and the other obscure,
have before now got mixed up, to the detriment of
tlio illustrious one
Something similar is said to have happened to the
great Athanasius, whose name has been confounded
with that of the obscure Pope Anastasius, in whose
presence a creed was recited by one Bishop Victricius,
and the confession of faith thus recited by command of
Anastasius now passes as the creed of Saint Athanasius,
since it emphasises the Trinitarian doctrine chiefly
connected with the name of that illustrious doctor.
A Giuseppe del Gesu is much more difficult to find
than a Strad his output, as compared to that of
Stradivarius, is as one to six ; his life was shorter, and
his working career probably more erratic. But he is
placed on a level with the immortal Antonio by some
who know how to handle him, and the prices of his
wares bave already reached lour figure*.
VIOLINS AT CBEMONA continued
THERE is something inexorable about the concensus of
Individuals may chafe under it, and writers may
try to reverse its verdict. You even have crazes for
the revival of neglected poets, painters, and musicians,
but you will never succeed in pushing from their pedes-
tals the great gods whom posterity has once decided
to bow down to.
De Beriot may choose to play on a Maggini, and
Paganini may prefer his Joseph, but even Maggini,
Kicolo Amati, and Giuseppe Guarnerius, who stand
round as it were saluting one another, leave Stradi-
vari apart by himself like a Colossus on a moun-
tain, and yet no one, not the greatest connoisseur, is
able to say exactly why, When so many esteem
individual violins aoove some JStrads, ana when Joseph
del Gesu is held to run the magic master very hard,
still Strad stands apart upon his mountain for all men
to look up to and wonder at. And why? We can
only say it is the way with all the greatest ; there is
something of the mystery of heaven about the incom-
municable touch ; the true aureole forms about no head
to order, and tho lonely seats are kept for the mighty.
-VIOLINS AT CREMONA 61
Antonio Stradivari or Stradiuarius was born in 1644,
and died, in his ninety-third year, in 1737- We get the
date of his death from the register, and the date of his
birth is fixed by a violin label (1736) in his own hand-
writing, in which he states that he was ninety-three
years old when he made the instrument.
Stradiuarius married at the age of twenty-three a
woman of twenty-seven, who had been a widow for
three years, whose maiden name was Ferraboschi, and
he adopted her one little girl By her he had six
children, some of whom died before him. His second
wife, whom he married several years later, bore him five
children, two of whom died before him so that in all
Stradivari had eleven children. None of them seemed
to have inherited their father's genius ; only Omobono
and Francesco Stradivari made even decent fiddles,
and so far maintained the great name as to succeed at
first in selling their wares at their father's prices. The
buyers probably hoped that at least the wood might
have been selected by Stradivari pbre, and much of it
probably was ; and if there was the chance of getting a
spare rib or back or belly with a touch of the master
upon it, it was surely worth a little speculation.
Antonio Stradivari and Andrea Guarneri, as stated
before, were young garzoni or apprentices together in
the workshop of the great Nicolo Amati sat on the
same work bench, used the same tools, and doubtless
discussed the same problems.
In and out of that shop ran, no doubt, the boy
Giuseppe Gaurneri to see his uncle Andrea. He must
62 OLD VIOLINS
have always found Stradivari there ; and when, later
on, Giuseppe imbibed a taste for fiddle-making, and
became himself the great Del Gesu, it is hard, I insist
upon it, to believe that what must have been a lifelong
acquaintance with the mighty Stradivari should have had
no influence whatever in forming his ideas and methods.
There is no mention of the youthful Stradivari
having accompanied Andrea Guarneri to the wedding
of his master, Nicolo Amati ; Andrea was doubtless the
older pupil, and Antonio Stradivari was taken on later.
"If thou wouldst teach, learn ; if thou wouldst create,
first copy." It is generally held that for some years,
roughly between 1660-70, Stradiuarius simply made up,
blocked out, drew, glued, mixed varnish, and worked
generally, but without signing his own name to any
fiddles. He was learning-, but in 1660 he begins to
sign his name, not from pride, but because his master
made him do so. From before that date to about
1670, which brings us to within fourteen years of
Nicolo Amati's death, he made what are sometimes
called Amati Strads.
At this time Antonio followed closely the violins of
the early Nicolo rather than the grand Amati pattern,
but he appears to have followed his master's develop-
ments continuously, slowly, but surely.
There exists a Stradivari violin with a label Nicholai
Amati (anno 1667), and about that date (when he
married) Antonio seems to have left his master's work-
shop, but still continued closely to copy Nicolo, and
many violins of his between 1660 and 1670 pass as
VIOLINS AT CREMONA 63
Amatis, whilst others are called Amati Strads, and
some are apparently joint productions.
When Stradiuarius married (about 1667) and left
Nicolo Amati, he set up round the corner in the same
street as the brothers Guarnerii, and almost next door
to them, in the square opposite the great Church of
S. Domenico. From about this time connoisseurs notice
a great improvement in Stradivari's technique ; but up
to 1672 at least, remaining a close copyist of Amati,
he doubtless kept on terms of the closest intimacy
with Nicolo, now in his decline, and benefited by the
abundance of orders flowing in for Amati violins which
the old master was unable to execute.
From 1660 to 1684 was a period of great activity,
perhaps haste ; even some pot-boiling Stradivari violins
may then have been made as the young family increased.
Antonio's wood is often plain about this time, and not
up to the best taste and selection of his master, but he
evidently remained his right-hand man to the end ; and
when Nicolo died, at the ripe age of eighty-eight, he
left all his tools and his plant not to his son Girolamo,
then about thirty-five, but to Antonio Stradivari, then
just forty years old.
In 1680, four years before the death of Nicolo,
Antonio had so far prospered as to be able to buy his
house (which I visited in 1880), at 1 Piazza Eoma, for
about 800. Desiderio Arisi, a Cremonese, has left an
interesting MS. in which he speaks of "his intimate
friend Antonio Stradivari" The MS. is dated 1720,
or seventeen years before the death of Stradivari.
64 OLD VIOLINS
Arisi alludes to a point of great interest which early
excited my attention and curiosity the many-sidedness
of the man. "In Cremona," writes Arisi, "is also
living my intimate friend Antonio Stradivari, an ex-
cellent maker of all kinds of musical instruments" In-
deed, he could make anything that was in demand, and
he did ; he could " fancy -purfle " to order, inlay, make
fiddles in odd shapes, or with a twist in the curve
here or there, or longer or shorter for experiment, or
hig or small.
The Marquis Carlo dal Negro of Genoa owned a
Stradivari harp in 1820. The master was not above
making mandolines and lutes to order. Messrs Hill
own a perfectly plain Stradivari guitar in fine con-
dition. It is of exquisite close-grained wood. I have
often wanted to hear the sound of that guitar. I
noticed a Stradivari cithern in the South Kensington
Loan Collection with an elaborately carved female head
of great beauty. I did not wonder that he who could
carve such scrolls could carve a head or anything else.
There are, or were, within the present century, other
gems of workmanship, some of which it is to be feared
have perished, children's fiddles, instruments made with
small figures, flowers, arabesques. Everything that
comes from his hand is finely accurate in drawing.
Sometimes his decoration is merely painted in black,
sometimes ivory, ebony, or mother-of-pearl is used,
but everything Stradivari did was perfectly done; he
qualified himself to the ?ith, as mathematicians say, for
each branch of his art.
VIOLINS AT CREMONA 65
In these days one man draws, another blocks out,
another inlays, another finishes. Stradivarius did all,
and did all consummately well. His heads and ara
besques are worthy of Cellini, his inlaying of the finest
Florentine marqueterie; his scrolls and curves are of
Pheidian beauty ; his varnishing is his own.
On the death of Amati, Stradiuarius and the Guar-
nerii had the Cremona market to themselves, and
whilst the competition was quite wholesome, there is
no reason to suppose that their rivalry was other than
a friendly one. They had all been brought up to-
gether, they had worked as boys together, they had
doubtless lent each other tools, touched up each other's
backs and bellies, varnished each other's ribs, criticised
each other's scrolls from boyhood; and now that the
Cremona violin was in the ascendant, and kings and
nobles from Spain, France, Germany, Saxony, and
even England were anxious for Cremona fiddles, there
was a market for them all.
The bitterness of competition is not always due to
rival makers, but often to over-production ; and such
a thing as over-production of fiddles in those days
was unknown. Nay, the orders that came in could
not be executed fast enough. Music walked faster
than the instruments could follow it. When the
King of Poland wanted a Strad violin he knew his
man, and sent his Capelmeister Voleme to Cremona,
with orders to stop there and bring back the twelve
violins ordered for the court orchestra. "So," says
Arisi, "Voleme arrived in 1715 on the 10th June, and
66 OLD VIOLINS
remained there three months, and when all the instrti*
ments were ready he took them with him to Poland."
But at this time Stradivari was at his zenith.
"There is not in the world," writes Lorenzo Gius-
tiniani, a Venetian nobleman, to the great artificer in
1715, "a more skilled maker of musical instruments
than yourself, and as I wish to preserve a record of
such an illustrious man and famous artist, I trouble
you with this letter to ask whether you feel disposed
to make me a violin of the highest quality and finish
that you can bestow upon it."
But we must not anticipate.
After the death of the illustrious Nicolo Amati,
this patient pupil, this careful copyist, this accurate
and tireless student and experimentalist, begins to
assert his strong individuality. His scroll departs
from the feminine Amati type, and becomes striking
and independent, his sound-holes recline more, his
corners are pronounced, his middle bout curves are
prolonged, his varnish is almost fancifully varied from
rich gold to soft velvety red. His wood is now in-
variably chosen with the utmost care, and as he made
chiefly for the nobility, royalty, and the higher clerical
dignitaries, he was not only on his mettle, but he could
afford to work just as he chose.
In 1682, Michele Monzi, a rich Venetian banker,
sent him an order for a chest of violins, altos and
'cellos, which were to be presented to our King
James II. They were so much liked that his Majesty
ordered a viol di gamba of Stradiuarius in 1686.
PLATE V (to face page 67)
The Rode and Spanish violins and the Spanish tenor,
it will be observed, are all inlaid. Strad was no bigot,
and although we may confidently assert that he disap-
proved of all inlaying or decoration on the bellies or
backs, and confined it to its narrowest limits when re-
sorted to in lieu of the usual strip of purning, he pro-
bably judged that if it did not encroach upon the
vibratory surfaces much beyond a common purfle, it
was comparatively harmless. It is likely that the Rode
Strad, whoso history I am unable to record, was made
for Royalty or some great Prince Cardinal of the
Church, the extra decoration being considered due to
the high rank of the patron, or wrought in obedience
to a special request. We have many evidences that
Strad was not above pleasing the individual whims of
his clients. He was himself an expert carver, and
could inlay with the best of them when he chose. The
Rode Strad Avas sold to Messrs Hill by M. Lamoureux,
the eminent French conductor, and by them to Dr Old-
ham of Brighton. The Strad 'cello is a good specimen
of Strad's improved bass model. The size is brought
down characteristically, and the comparative small-
ness of the upper, contrasting w r ith the ample develop-
ment of the lower part, gives the instrument an ap-
pearance of lightness and grace; whilst the delicate
and somewhat narrow head, with its sufficiently mas-
sive and finely cut out scroll, admirably balances the
whole to the eye with a certain "chic" quite a la
VIOLINS AT CREMONA 67
In 1685, Cardinal Orsini, afterwards Pope Benedict
XIII., had ordered a violoncello and two violins of him,
besides making him " one of his private attendants," an
honorary title, but equivalent to appointing Stradiu-
arius instrument-maker to the Cardinal Archbishop.
We commend this fact to his Holiness Pope Leo XIII.
(1897), who has lately placed the violin on his index
expurgatorius of instruments, as being too frivolous
for the solemnities of divine service! Yet Pius IX.
was a pretty good fiddler.
In 1687 Stradivari makes his famous set of instru-
ments for the Spanish Court, inlaid with ivory, with a
scroll-work running round the sides. One of these
rarities a violin found its way into the hands of Ole
Bull, the famous violinist. It has been since sold in
England to Dr Charles Oldham of Brighton. The
tenor is, I believe, in existence. When last in the
market, it had lost its ivory purfling, which has since
been exquisitely replrced by Messrs Hill.
There are extant several very small violins made
evidently to order about this period. The fallacy of
different sizes for different ages from childhood upwards
is one which will always smile to makers and those acute
persons who teach the violin and buy their pupils' in-
struments, which of course have to be changed as the
children grow up, for larger and larger ones. I have
always protested against this. A child of eight had
much better play the violin like a violoncello (at the
age of seven, as I did myself) than be given a small
one; but when I was eight I could hold a full-sized
68 OLD VIOLINS
violin to my chin not quite in the correct position, no
doubt, but near enough. Thus from the very first,
when at six or seven years of age, I played the violin
like the violoncello, I never had to unlearn my intervals
in stopping the strings. The "brain learns intervals.
An habitual tenor player never plays the violin quite
in tune, and vice versd ; and so every time a larger violin
is placed in the pupil's hands, the brain is bothered with
the narrower stopping learned in the preceding period.
Still, no one can regret the exquisite cabinet, almost
toy specimens, made by the Amati and Guarnerii as
well as by Strad. Artistically they are gems ; musically,
fallacies. I have never got anybody to agree with me
about not using dwarf fiddles. Joachim, I believe, con-
tended that for a child to use a large fiddle stiffens
his muscles. I don't believe it; it certainly did not
stiffen mine. I believe I am also in a minority in my
partiality for old bridges. Neither theory is, in fact,
"good for trade."
In 1690 Stradivari executed a celebrated order for
the Prince of Tuscany, through the Marquis Bartho-
lomeo Aribati. Of these chefs-d'oeuvre the Marquis
writes: "I assure you the Prince has accepted your
instruments with more pleasure than I could expect.
The players in the orchestra are unanimous in express-
ing appreciation. They declare your instruments to
be quite perfect ; they all say they never heard a violon-
cello with such a tone as yours. My having brought
to the knowledge of such a person as his Highness your
great skill will doubtless procure you many orders from
PLATE VI (to face page 69;
This plate contains profiles of the three Strads shown
in Plate V., and is interesting as displaying the variety
exhibited in Strad's scroll carving. The Spanish
Strad has quite an Amatise scroll, long, light, and very
restrained, and undeveloped at the lower extremity.
Notice the greater freedom of the Rode scroll, quite in
Strad's best manner. The Rode model is also flatter
in the back, but the bellies are all flat in the approved
style, after the earlier Amati groove had almost en-
tirely disappeared from the Cremona model.
VIOLINS AT CREMONA 69
his exalted house" and then follow more orders for
two tenors. On this occasion, we learn, from the relics
of Stradivari in the possession of the Marquis della
Valle, that the great violin-maker characteristically
enough made the most beautiful cases for the royal
instruments, decorating them profusely with armorial
bearings and symbols appropriate to each instrument.
The order was given in 1684, but the instruments
were not handed in till 1690. The Grand Duke, it
seems, came back for more, as there was found amongst
his instruments a violin of the grand pattern bearing
the later date, 1716.
I cannot forbear to call attention to the exquisite
chromo-lithographs of the Tuscan violin, and the lucid
description and history of this last-named famous
masterpiece, in Messrs Hill's handsome monograph.
He declares it to be in the very finest preservation still,
with an unbroken and authentic record, and to possess
all the noblest qualities of the incomparable master. It
is on the very verge of his great period, bearing the date
1690, and was bought by Mr David Ker in 1794. The
Tuscan viola and violoncello are still in the Institute
at Florence, and I advise all lovers of Cremona who
get the chance to go and inspect them.
The only other point of great general interest before
the year 1700, when Stradivarius enters on his golden
period, is the deliberate manufacture of a certain num-
ber of violins on a pattern distinct from the Amati,
and from any patterns adopted by himself before 1686-
1694, or after 1700. These instruments are known as
70 OLD VIOLINS
long Strads, and they seem to be a sort of construc-
tional or experimental link between the smaller Amati
pattern and the grand Strad pattern of 1700-37 a
model evidently suggested by the grand Nicolo, but
not adopted by the cautious Strad till some years after
Nicolo's death. .
From 1694 to 1700 Stradivari not only went out of
his way to make long Strads, which not only looked
longer because they were narrower and pinched in, but
actually were longer i.e. 14-inch, as compared to the
1690 13 -inch Strad. In other respects also he walked
through his own traditions. Having mastered all
violin lore, he was evidently at last trying a series of
daring experiments to settle in his own mind once and
for ever certain problems of tone.
We have known painters trifle with colour in the
same way. Gainsborough would paint his blue boy,
and Whistler symphonies in green, mauve, or anything
else unexpected, and Turner would recreate the light
that never was on sea or land ; but in reality it was no
trifling, but study in arrangement of colour. So you
can have study in construction, empirical ventures, and
a testing of tone problems, whether in sound or colour.
As Stradivari mused and carved, and glued and var-
nished, year after year, his meditations might run thus :
" Flatten the belly thicker here or there according to
wood, density of fibre ; air column restrained by narrow
width, as in the long pattern, but same cubic inches of air
allowed for in length or height of ribs, only differently
defined by different shapes of instruments, Enlarge
VIOLINS AT CREMONA 71
width, thin planks, but try different thicknesses; see
how different densities of wood go together. Try old
seasoned wood for back, newer for belly, or vice versd;
if wood hard, thin it; if soft, thicken it; try effect of
higher ribs on flat curves; lower the ribs on more
bulgy curves and grooved sides. What did Nicolo
aim at with his grand pattern ? Adopt his width and
size, and flatten his belly. Try and save his sweetness
(did the grooves give that ?) with the flatter back and
belly, which gives louder tone, adopting the mathe-
matical curve of nature, suggested by the vibration of
a string ; certainly that gives power. Is a joined back,
or a back in one piece, best or indifferent ? That would
depend on wood attainable. How would it be to patch
bits of precious wood if inter-congenial? That gene-
rally succeeds. A good secret that, but an open one
wanted always the patcher ! "
This idea of patching was certainly one of the most
inspired thoughts that ever occurred to him. He seems
to have kept wood of the finest acoustic properties for
his best orders. He had favourite planks; we can
trace one of these by a stain that runs through the
grain, and the wood crops up again and again in some
of his best fiddles.
The plank must have been known to his pupils, for
the remains of it were worked up after his death.
"Now for the sound-bar," ponders Stradivari;
"thick or thin, according to the density or elasticity
of the back and belly. And its position? A little
transverse, of course slightly diagonal to be in th$
72 OLD VIOLINS
line of vibratioD. Study effect on power of different
strings by placing it a fraction of an inch one way or
another ; place it slightly aslant for experiment. And
the varnish?" But that will call for a few separate
I have tried to indicate the kind of observation and
meditation, demanding unlimited time, patience, and
love, which Stradivari devoted for the better part of a
century to his art, and without which those Cremona
chefs-d'oeuvre, the Dolphin, the Messie, Tuscan, Betts,
and Pucelle Strads, could never have come forth.
I have alluded to Strad's taking late to the large
Amati pattern for violins, inclining for some time to
the small size. I do not know that any one has yet
noticed that in violoncellos Strad reversed this order of
work, making his early violoncellos large, and diminish-
ing their size. As he reached his golden period he
probably felt that the demands made by virtuosity
and tone-power were quite alike consistent with a
larger type of violin and a smaller and more manage-
able size of violoncello.
The violinist is well aware of the value of Strad's
golden period, which will cost him gold; for, after
about 1700, a fine Strad will be worth to him from
1000 and upwards, according to its condition.
The long apprenticeship was at last over, and in
1700 the master had reached the ripe age of fifty-six,
an age at which so many have achieved their greatest
work. He was at the acme of his power, experience,
and fame j no one could teach him anything now, and
VIOLINS AT CREMONA 73
apparently he had nothing to learn. He could at last
wield his tools as a Millais or a Tadema wields his
brush, a Flaxman his pencil, a Canova his chisel, or as
a Mozart or Wagner handles his score. He knew what
he wanted, and he could do it, and do it with a spon-
taneous ease and joy which seems even now to smile
to us from the saucy corners of his bouts, the free
daring curves of his grand pattern, and the lightly
tossed and lifted scrolls.
No one has failed to notice the masterful ease, the
emancipation from all mannerism, the cool defiance of
precedent and uniformity, and even symmetry, which
characterises his great period from 1700 to 1730.
The violins are not all alike. Strad knew that the
secret was not merely in the pattern or shape ; he could
vary his curves, and yet produce masterpieces, because
he knew all about the air column, the wood densities,
and the proportions and quantities which should be
combined for the requisite result, and he could mix
them differently like a master colourist. He no more
treated every violin as if it had the same constitution
than does a physician treat every human body alike;
it is not so much nitrogenous or carbonaceous food,
and so much liquid, but it is these and other things
used in proportion, according to your digestion and
temperament, which will produce in that instrument,
your body, the harmony of health ; and how close is
the analogy between the constitution of a violin and
that of a human body how varied is the texture, the
tissue, quality, fibre, and density of the component
74 OLD VIOLINS
parts of each I have endeavoured to point out as
succinctly as I could.
So, in the grand period, the grand pattern Strads
are all made with a trained, almost inspired instinct,
according to those laws which govern the tone qualities
aimed at ; but the fiddles are by no means alike to look
at. They have the charm of imaginative variety, com-
bined with the unity of supreme excellence.
To this great period belongs the Dolphin Strad, so
called, it is said, from the melting and almost iridescent
tints of the varnish. To me, however, the violin almost
suggests the life, freedom, and elegant poise of that
graceful fish whose name it bears. The beauty and
acoustic properties of the Dolphin wood are quite
special, and can easily be compared with other violins
of the same period, some of which are much plainer
to look at, and somewhat different in form, and though
very charming, hardly so bell-like in tone.
The last time I had the privilege of touching the
Dolphin Strad was at my lecture on violins before the
Koyal Institution in 1880. I shall never forget its
ringing notes and its exquisite sensibility. It seemed
anxious to speak before it was spoken to ; when touched,
it seemed to do all for itself like magic. Instead of
the player showing it off, it shows off the player; he
begins to feel he has nothing to learn in tone produc-
tion. It is almost like sitting at those ingeniously
contrived pianos that make elaborate music, and you
merely have to put your hands on a dummy key-
board, press the keys, and appear to be playing, and
VIOLINS AT CREMONA 75
then you roll off Chopin and Mendelssohn perfectly,
though you can scarce play your scales! Since then
Vuillaume's sound-bar has been replaced with a stronger
one by Messrs Hill. It seemed to me quite perfect
before, but I suppose one must bow to experts in
The best opinion limits the number of instruments
which Strad made to about two thousand, only eight
hundred of which at most are known to be extant.
Compared with any other maker except Vuillaume,
both as regards output and survival of work, Strad
probably bears the palm.
An elaborate description, a careful portraiture of
every known Strad, together with its history, as far
as recoverable, I must leave for some more gifted and
industrious recorder. I believe Messrs Hill are pre-
paring the most complete monograph on Stradivari
which has ever yet or is ever likely to appear, and
I only wish I could dip into their MS. and steal a
few pages. It will certainly, when it appears, be a
monumental work, and there is no time to lose, as
many of these gems are known to have been destroyed,
others dismembered, whilst some are at the bottom of
the sea. There are, however, a few more famous speci-
mens, which are of such unique interest that they cannob
be passed over even in so general a survey as this.
Mr Croall (1897) of Edinburgh is the happy owner
of M. Artot's Strad, varnished dark red, quite perfect,
and one of the finest known for tone ; it is dated 1716.
Lady Halls' still plays on Ernst's violin, bought for
76 OLD VIOLINS
500, and presented to her by the Earl of Dudley
and some others. I shall never forget the wonderful
effects elicited from it by the great magician Ernst
in his palmy days, nor can I understand the statement
recently made that its tone is difficult to elicit. I have
heard the faintest vanishing whisper of its strings on
the Covent Garden stage when, as a boy, I was seated
up in the top gallery at one of Benedict's monster
season concerts early in the fifties.
A romantic interest attaches to two Stradivari violins
which have come down to us in absolutely perfect con-
dition : one is called the Messie, the other the Pucelle
or the Virgin.
The Messie was secured by Vuillaume after the death
of that remarkable man Luigi Tarisio, to whom further
on I devote a special section. It bears date 1716.
Tarisio would never let it be seen till Vuillaume
possessed it ; it had then never been touched or played
upon. He lengthened the neck, but, without inserting
his new neck, he fixed it to a block placed outside the
ribs. Count Cozio de Salabue had bought it in 1760,
but never allowed it to be played upon.
Tarisio bought it after the Count's death, and at
his own death in 1854 it passed to Vuillaume, and
was exhibited (No. 91) in the South Kensington Loan
Exhibition of 1872, and for the first time unveiled
beneath glass to the gaze of admiring thousands.
When I first saw the Messie I could not believe my
eyes. It was covered throughout and uniformly with
thick rich red-brown varnish, laid on with a firm brush,
VIOLINS AT CREMONA 77
level and lavish. It seemed to have left the workshop
only the day before; the anointed glitter of the fresh
varnish was upon it, it looked hardly dry. It is of
the grand pattern, but not heavy and massive like
some of the great Del Gesu's, but beautiful as a
Pheidian carving, full of a certain special grace and
elegance. One"/" is a shade lower than the other
a practice so common with Strad, especially in his later
period, that it must have been intentional, his artistic
eye not tolerating even the suggestion of mechanical
uniformity. The Greeks worked similarly, no two sides
of their Corinthian capitals ever quite matching.
The "Messiah" back is in two pieces, the corners
are absolutely unrubbed, and completely covered with
varnish of no other specimen can this be said. The
head is light and graceful, " the scroll/* as I have
elsewhere observed, thrown off like a ribbon lightly
curled about the finger, and drawn in, one side of
the scroll cut a little lower than the other; the lines
of the scroll are picked out with thick black paint;
only faint traces of this remain in other violin heads.
The black outline was artistically conceived, as it called
full attention to the scroll curve, always so character-
istic a part of violin physiognomy.
As the Messiah recently bought by Mr Crawford
of Edinburgh for 2000 has now been played upon,
it seems a pity that the world should not sometimes
be allowed to hear its voice ; and I venture to say that
a well-advertised concert, in which two of our finest
violinists should be invited to play on the Messiah
78 OLD VIOLINS
and the Pucelle i.e., each player upon each instru-
ment once, thus giving four solos, so that the audience
might hear the same violins under different fingers
would be an epoch in the musical world. The an-
nouncement would doubtless pack St James's or any
other London hall.
The Pucelle or Virgin is the last Stradivari violin
I have space to notice. The "Virgin" is so called
because its interior organism had, up to the time when
it came into M. Vuillaume's hands, not been interfered
with i.e., the inside bass bar had never been touched.
All the old violins have had these bars strengthened,
and their necks lengthened, to meet the strain of the
modern high-pitch tension of the strings on the belly,
and the lengthened finger-board which the develop-
ment of advanced virtuosity demands.
These readjustments the Pucelle owes to Vuillaume.
She is in fine preservation otherwise, although her
varnish is a good deal rubbed in places. Her contour,
so fanciful are even good judges, is by some considered
more graceful than that of the Messiah, but less grace-
ful by others. To me there seems to be little to choose
between them ; each is a distinct conception.
The Virgin's varnish is of a rich soft brown and
yellow tone, rather contrasting with the Messiah's
bright red. The head is stronger and less graceful
than that of some Strads (the Dolphin's, for instance) ;
the Virgin's back is in two parts, the belly is a little
higher than that of the Messiah. The only vestige of
repair about her is where the chin has rubbed into the
VIOLINS AT CREMONA 79
purfling, which has accordingly been renewed. The
corners are somewhat fancifully cut, running straight
out in the top bouts, and hanging away in the lower
bouts; there is a rather marked indentation of the
curve beneath them.
The Virgin is labelled 1709, and she reached Paris
in 1840 (of course it is a Tarisio violin) ; it has been
owned by Mons. le Eoy, a banker, and passed to his
heir, Mons. Glanday. She is now the property of
a member of the same family, and is very jealously
guarded by her owner.
In vain does imagination seek to recover the image
of the great maker as he lived and moved and had
his being through ninety-three years of shower and
shine. Undisturbed by petty sieges and local dis-
turbances and changes of administration, sought for
and admired impartially by the friends and the foes
of his country, he wrought out calmly his own match-
Violins have no politics, and the great republic of
Art dominates the ages, and comprehends whilst it
survives the rise and fall of dynasties and empires.
I sometimes seem to see the grand old man standing
at the door of his modest but comfortable house a
tall, thin, perhaps rather gaunt figure, most likely not
a man of many words, carrying on for ever mental pro-
cesses connected with his subtle handicraft, seldom seeii
without a chisel in his hand.
Behold him just risen from his stool, or come round
to superintend or criticise a carelessly cut scroll of
80 OLD VIOLINS
Bergonzi, his best pupil; and before he goes up into
that almost sacred attic, open to the air, at the top
of the house, where hang the varnished fiddles and
anointed strips a-drying, he mutters a rebuke or recti-
fies a curve.
The old man comes to the door, and stands for a
moment looking down the street. He wears his woollen
nightcap and his inevitable leather apron; he salutes
the neighbours as they pass, but they do not stop to
speak to him, they know he has no leisure for that.
Only later, at the cafe*-cabaret, it may be, he will chat
with Joseph Guarnerius, and exhort him to more re-
finement; or tell his sons they will never uphold the
reputation of the firm if they do not work harder ; and
as it is known that the master detests interruptions
at home, in those moments of rare leisure when he
emerges with the regularity of clockwork to sip his
vino or sirop or coffee, Capelmeister A. or Padre B.
or Monsignor C. may surprise him for a chat, and
inquire timidly when the violoncello or quartet of
violins ordered are likely to be ready, and get for reply
something too enigmatic or oracular to be of any ser-
vice ; so patrons or patrons' emissaries had to sit down
at Cremona and wait on the master's convenience for
the masterpieces that could be got nowhere else.
His prices seem to have been altogether moderate,
but we must remember that the value of money was
far greater in those days, a sovereign going then nearly
as far as five go now.
He sold his violins for 10 ( = 40); the original
VIOLINS AT CREMONA 81
price of his violoncellos and violas does not seem to
Although he had a large family, he must have made,
if not inherited, money, for there seems to have been a
proverb cuurent at Cremona, " As rich as Stradivari."
Some years ago, fresh from my visit to the house
of Stradivari, then still standing in the Piazza Eoma,
Cremona, I gave a full description of the great maker's
entourage^ which I need not here repeat ; but a single
paragraph may serve better than anything that I
can now write, at the distance of over a decade, to
place the reader in the atmosphere in which Antonio
Stradivari worked for more than half a century.
I stood in the open loft at the top of his house
where still in the old beams stuck the rusty old nails
upon which he hung up his violins. And I saw out
upon the north the wide blue sky, just mellowing to
rich purple, and flecked here and there with orange
streaks prophetic of sunset. Whenever Stradiuarius
looked up from his work, if he looked north his eye
fell on the old towers of S. Marcellino and S. An-
tonio, if he looked west the Cathedral with its tall
campanile rose dark against the sky, and what a sky !
full of clear sun in the morning, full of pure heat all
day, and bathed with ineffable tints in the cool of the
evening when the light lay low upon vinery and hang-
ing garden, or spangled with ruddy gold the eaves
the roofs and frescoed walls of the houses.
Here, up in the high air, with the sun his helper,
the light his minister, the blessed soft airs his jour-
82 OLD VIOLINS
neymen, what time the work-a-day noise of the city
rose and the sound of matins and vespers was in his c
ears, through the long warm days worked Antor
Before the time came for the busy hand to f' ; l,
Antonio ceased to sign all the violins that he m ;
but, with an old man's natural pride, he continueu to
sign a few down to the year of his death, registering
the number of his years in each case, and it is from
one of the latest of these, dated 1736, that we know
He sank quietly to rest, evidently worn out natu-
rally and nobly, if not with his eye quite undimmed
and his natural strength unabated, certainly still full
of marvellous vigour, unpalsied senses, and undulled
When the Chapel of the Eosary in 'the Church of
S, Domenico, opposite to which he had lived all his
life, was pulled down, his funeral tablet was rescued,
and it is now in the Town Hall at Cremona; but
where are his ashes ? Are they in the present family
vault of the Stradivaris, in the Campo Santo of
Cremona, or in the parish of S. Matthew? I was
unable to ascertain. The tablet bears the following
simple inscription : " Sepolcro di Antonio Stradivari
E svoi Eredi, Anno 1729."
Many of his family had preceded him to the grave,
both of his wives and six of his eleven children, his
last wife dying only nine months before him, a signifi-
cant and painful event in a life so regular and unevent-
PLATE VII (to face vacje 8 3> l
A Panoramic View of Cremona, taken outside Porto
Po from the banks of the river, and engraved about
1830 by Caporali. Names of buildings, counting from
the right of the print : 1. Church of S. Pietro ; 2. Tower
of the old orisons near the Town Hall ; 3. Battisterio ;
4. Cathedral; 5. Town Hall Tower; 6. Torrazzo, the
Cathedral Tower, the highest in Italy ; 7. Church of S.
Marcellino ; 8. Church of S. Domenico ; 9. Church of
5. Agostino ; 10. Church of S. Lucca ; 11. Church of S.
Omobono, patron of the town ; 12. Church of S. Agata ;
13. Church of S. Ilario ; 14. Church of S. Luca. Signer
Sacchi, a native of Cremona, has kindly identified all
the above for me.
VIOLINS AT CREMONA 83
ful, and one which may not unnaturally have hastened
his own end. None of the family seem to have been
buried in the S. Domenico vault, but in one belong-
ing to Signer Francesco Vitani, in the parish of S.
Matthew; so it may be Antonio lies there.
The Church of S. Domenico was pulled down several
years ago ; the house of Stradiuarius was destroyed only
recently. The Piazza S. Domenico is now the Piazza
Eoma, and when an average Cremonese is asked about
Stradivari, he thinks of the fashionable avocat of that
name, who appears to spend his time chiefly at Milan,
and may possibly resent the notion that a man in good
society should ever have had ancestors connected with
fiddle-making. Sic transit.
The achievements in violin-making up to the first
quarter of the eighteenth century are clearly summed
up in the names of Antonio Stradivari and Giuseppe
(del Gesu) Guarneri.
It would be an interesting and thorny question to
debate whether any variations of importance or addi-
tions in excellence have since been noticeable, and
of course we naturally look to the best Cremonese
makers, who followed these giants of tone-power and
The name of Carlo Bergonzi at once stands out as
worthy, if not to be bracketed with that of the two
mighty men, at least to receive their mantle and
reflect something of their lustre. Carlo Bergonzi was
Stradivari's favourite pupil; he lived next door, and
afterwards occupied Stradivari's own house with his son,
84 OLD VIOLINS
He finished many of his master's late violins, and
issued some others after his death collected from the
debris of the great man's workshop; and Stradivari
left him all his tools and plant.
He worked at Cremona between 1720-47 or 50, and
followed at first Stradivari's example ; for as Antonio
made his early fiddles on the pattern of Nicolo Amati,
so did Bergonzi closely copy the grand Strad pattern.
But later on, and before the death of the old man,
Bergonzi conceived the ambition of attempting to weld
the power of Giuseppe Guarnerius with the round,
bright, bell-like sweetness of the Stradivari. To what
extent he succeeded must be left to the judgment and
decision of connoisseurs, but the grand quality for
which his violins are increasingly appreciated is, no
doubt, their powerful sonority; that he clearly saw
must be the indispensable quality for all violins of the
The old tinkling days were over ; the feeble, scraping,
and muffled viol tone was a thing of the past. The
instrument had finally emerged from the cloister, was
no longer to be a mere adjunct to the voice in dim
sacristies and cathedral choirs; its sphere henceforth
was to be out in the wide, wide world, its triumphs
were to be won in the concert room, the opera house,
and the grand musical arenas of solo virtuosity.
And so, undoubtedly, what Bergonzi aimed at was
body of tone and carrying power, and he won it. This
dominant idea has modified even his pattern. He
looks bold and loud. Yet is the pattern not Guarneri,
VIOLINS AT CREMONA 85
but Stradivari modified. Notice the larger breadth of
the top curve, a certain bold angularity about the
bouts, and a freer development of the lower part of the
violin as well; the sound-holes set lower and nearer
to the purfling, and the flat model which Stradivari
discovered to be favourable to loudness. The scroll is
also characteristic flatter in some places than that
of his master, but made to look bold and full of self-
assertion by reason of the strongly-defined and promi-
nent curl of the ear, which stands out and at once
The whole build is massive. The Bergonzi will
outlast the Strad; it will be the survival, if not of
the fittest, of the strongest. The very varnish is
laid on with a lavish hand, to allow for wear and
tear; it is even clotted in places, and is said in some
specimens to have cracked and become scurfy. It
is of a red Cremona brown, velvety, and quite the
Until within the last few years Bergonzi has not
received his dues ; the scarcity of his instruments may
in part account for this ; but in France, and especially
in England, he is now fully recognised and much
sought after. There are, however, only about sixty
authentic instruments of his known. His working
life was but about twenty-five years. Two notable
Bergonzi violins are those in the possession of Miss
Eissler and Signor Simonetti. There is a famous
Bergonzi double-bass of singularly fine quality now in
possession of Mr I. Soars of Boston. In Count Cozio
86 OLD VIOLINS
de Salabue's collection there were two very fine BergonzJ
violins, dated 1731 and 1733.
There were five other Bergonzis a son and grand-
sons ; they all made fiddles, but they were of no account,
and were far surpassed by some other makers who them-
selves belong to the decline period of the Cremona
Although I have called Bergonzi Stradivari's best
pupil, it would be very unfair to ignore the merit of
Lorenzo Guadagnini (1695-1740), the only one of that
name who poses as a pupil of Stradivari. He was born
at Piacenza, but lived at Cremona till about 1740. In
about 1795 he removed to Milan after leaving his
master at Cremona, but returned to die in his native
town. His make is bold, his model flat, his varnish
not so rich as his master's, his head original, but with-
out the grace of Antonio.
His son, Giovanni Battista, born at Piacenza, 1711-
1786, made violins which are almost more highly
esteemed than his father's. He imitated Stradivari
perhaps more closely than his father, but Count Cozio
de Salabue, who thought very highly of him and
bought several instruments from him, is careful to
mention that Giovanni Battista Guadagnini prided
himself upon being no mere copyist. In fact, the
Guadagnini in the hands of Mr Willy Hess is quite
equal to the best of Lorenzo's work. He was always
changing his place of residence, and wandered from
Piacenza to Milan, and at last to Turin, where he died.
His own explanation was that the envy of rivals made
VIOLINS AT CREMONA 87
each town too hot for him, but his neighbours said
that his frequent migrations were due to his own
hot temper. There were seven Guadagninis who
made violins between 1695 and 1881, but of these
the first two, father and son, alone need be taken
It has been the fashion to separate the Italian
makers into schools according to the place at which
they happened to live the Milanese, the Venetian, the
Neapolitan, the Bolognese, etc.; but it is much more
important to notice the influences under which the
chief makers worked than to identify them with special
A Cremonese who works at Venice but carries the
Cremonese traditions with him, is still a Cremonese, and
belongs to the Cremona school.
Thus, the "mighty Montagnana," as the novelist
Charles Eeade called him, made Cremona violins and
violoncellos at Venice. He worked between 1700-40
as a pupil of Stradivari, and survived his master only
three years. But he came to him when the Cremona
art was already perfected, and studied the finest models,
assisting in all probability at the very manufacture of
the most wonderful instruments in the world. With
such a training, on his arrival at Venice he easily took
the lead and kept it, and to this day his instruments,
especially his matchless violoncellos alas! too few in
number are little if at all inferior to the best of
Montagnana's outline is by no means a servile copy,
88 OLD VIOLINS
of Stradivari. It is flattened at top and bottom, and
seems to the eye less graceful ; but in his selection of
wood, his glorious varnish, the relative thickness of his
slabs, and in the cunning knowledge of those fibre den-
sities in back and belly which are likely to sound well
together, he is second to none.
Montagnana no doubt embodies and transplants to
Venice the Cremona secrets. As I noticed in the case
of Bergonzi, Montagnana, owing to the paucity of his
instruments as well as to the splendour of his contem-
poraries, Strad and Giuseppe Guarneri, has not until
lately received the honour which is due to him. He
suffers, too, from having often been labelled Guarnerius
or Bergonzi, makers who had the vogue of the day.
These frauds are now being unmasked, and the few
great successors of the Cremona giants, Bergonzi,
Montagnana, Guadagnini, and Balestrieri (very fine in
Guadagnini's style, flat, big build, powerful tone), and
Storioni, have at last a chance of taking their proper
places and fetching their prices.
When we come to Lorenzo Storioni (1769-99) we
come to the last maker of importance who can with
any show of plausibility be called even a second or
third rate master of Cremona. Storioni's model was
Joseph Guarnerius, but he copied him more in his
rough work than in his great qualities. In his varnish
we notice the singular change which came over the
Cremona varnish after about 1760. Up till then all
the Cremona violins have the Cremona varnish ; after
that time it simply disappears. Why is it? This
VIOLINS AT CREMONA 89
interesting problem I shall have to consider in my
chapter on Cremona varnish.
Storioni's instruments are not much esteemed in
England as yet, but are thought a good deal more of
I may here fitly mention the Gagliano family, who
are associated with the Neapolitan school, but really
derive their importance from Cremona. Alessandro
Gagliano, the first of the name, was distinguished for
his very fine red varnish, 1695-1730. A violin remark-
able for its tone is the Gennaro Gagliano that has
been used by Mr Otto Peiniger for solo purposes
during many years.
Alessandro Gagliano was actually in early life a bond
fide pupil of Stradivari. Finding himself, no doubt, un-
mercifully overshadowed by the prestige of the immortal
workshops in the square of S. Domenico at Cremona,
and being a person of native enterprise, Alessandro
Gagliano migrated to the South, carrying with him the
Cremona craft, and founded the so-called Neapolitan
school. His model was, of course, the approved flat
one of the golden age, 1700-37, but his scroll is
small and rather mean, the // are set low down, and
the work is sometimes lacking in finish. It is in the
varnish of Alessandro Gagliano that we see some con-
nection with Stradivari, his varnish very often being
fine in colour and of the right texture.
Attempts have been made to classify the various
towns in which Italian violins were made during the
Cremona period into schools, which is about as profit-
90 OLD VIOLINS
able an occupation as the attempts to divide the work
of individual makers into distinct periods one period
runs into another, and one school runs into another.
Koughly speaking, you find but two influences the
Cremona, i.e., the Nicolo, the great Giuseppe and
greater Antonio influence with its flat form, gentle
curves, and red and yellow varnish ; and the German, i.e. t
the Stainer model, of which I shall presently speak, with
its elongated form, arched belly, deep side-grooves, and
Some fine Venetian and Milanese makers like Mon-
tagnana and Serafino inclined to Stainer, whilst the
Eoman and Neapolitan adhered more to the Cremona
type; but Stainer himself learnt at Cremona, and all
the best men like Tecchler (Eome) and Gagliano
(Naples) who went South copied either -Stradivari or
Giuseppe Guarnerius. The Milanese school, on account
of the great importance of the capital, naturally
attracted good makers like Grancino, Testore (pupil
of Grancino), and Pietro Giovanni Mantegazza (1687-
Venice, Florence, and Bologna can also boast of a
few respectable names, but I prefer, for the sake of
completeness, to treat them later more in catalogue
style, for the guidance of the student, and not to mix
them up with the great central figures which have
formed the subject, and I hope absorbed the attention,
of the reader of this section.
VIOLINS IN GEKMANY
UP course, by this time, " every schoolboy/' to use
Macaulay's famous phrase, knows that most things
including, alas ! violins can be made in Germany
faster and cheaper than anywhere else; and if we
trust to German writers like Dr Shebek, we might
almost believe that viols, not to say the violin,
originated in Germany.
I am quite willing to leave the viol origin an open
question. If, on the one hand, Albert Durer and his
father-in-law both made violins and dated back to
1500, Benvenuto Cellini tells us that long before 1500
his father made the finest Italian viols at Florence;
and an ingenious writer has now unearthed a print
by Maso Fineguerra, the father of engraving about
1460, in which Thalia is represented playing on a
small violin pochette or kit which, by the way, has
rather upset the idea that the kit was a reduced
violin, but seems to show, on the contrary, that the
violin followed the kit instead of the kit following
the violin, the kit being in reality a small violin. It
is thus triumphantly argued by Mr Fleming that
even the predecessor of, and every suggestion of, the
92 OLD VIOLINS
violin came from Italy ; but in his ardour he fails to
; notice that although an Italian print shows a woman
playing on a kit, the kit she plays on might all the
same have been " made in Germany."
If I see an English picture with a tomahawk and
a boomerang, I do not assume at once that the objects
depicted were necessarily "made in England."
But, as far as this book is concerned, such questions
are of quite secondary importance. It is sufficient
to notice that the first instruments possessing the dis-
tinctive features of what we call the viola and the
violin, as distinguished from the viol tribe, came from
Brescia and Cremona; and that the greatest, if not
the earliest, German maker, Jacobus Steiner or Stainer,
is commonly reputed to have studied at Venice, or, as
some say, learnt his art under Nicolo Amati at Cremona.
As we approach the great figure of Stainer we are in
the presence of a man who stands only second in popular
estimation to the greatest of the Cremona masters.
Indeed, so great a musician and eminent an authority
as Sir John Hawkins writes in 1776: "The violins
of Cremona are exceeded [ sic ] only by those of Stainer
a German whose instruments are remarkable for a
full and piercing tone*" Tho popularity of an English
maker, Duke, who followed the German Stainer model,
and whose fiddles were all the rage when good Sir John
wrote, may have a little blinded his eyes to the Cremona
chefs-d'awre few of which, if any, he had ever seen.
But it is no small tribute to the power of the German
that for at least a hundred years he retarded the due
VIOLINS IN GERMANY 93
recognition of the Cremonas and gave a faulty direction
to the violin pattern throughout England, France, and
The arguments in favour of Stainer having visited
Cremona in his early life rest a good deal on romance
the story of his having been a pupil of the great
Nicolo, whose daughter he is said to have refused to
marry, is unreliable. Whether he went home or stayed
at home and married the village belle whom he appears
first to have compromised, and who bore him seven
daughters and one son after marriage and one daughter
before, it matters very little to us.
Poems and novels have been written about this
unhappy child of genius, but, as far as I can gather,
the only reliable facts seem to be these, and they have
been quite recently unearthed and sifted by Herr Euf,
who died at Hall in 1877 :
Jacob Steiner or Stainer was undoubtedly born at
Absam, a village not far from HalL The townlet lay
on the high-road between the Tyrol and Italy, and
doubtless nothing that went on in the northern cities of
Lombardy was long in finding its way to Hall, for mules
and pedlars constantly carried all sorts of merchandise
viols, and violins, and lutes amongst other things
to and fro. The great argument against Steiner ever
having received early instruction at Cremona seems
to be that he affected the tubby raised bellies and
deep side-grooves of the old German viols ; but it must
be remembered that if as a boy he came under Nicolo
Amati's influence, it was at a time when Nicolo him-
94 OLD VIOLINS
self approached far more nearly the raised viol form
than he did later on when his own model improved.
The Steiner pattern is therefore consistent with all
Firstly, that Steiner adopted the raised pattern
which he found at Cremona, and which was then
common throughout the violin -making world ; that,
returning early to Absam, he adhered to it, and,
perhaps from motives of national pride, accentuated
it Grermano more.
Secondly, that he visited Cremona later, when his
own model was already formed, and was too proud
to alter it.
Thirdly, that German he was, and German he re-
mained, and never went to Cremona at all.
All these questions, upon which much ink and paper
have been spent, remain more interesting to the anti-
quarian than to the collector. Still, an indescribable
interest and a deep human pathos seem to cling about
the meagre facts of this remarkable man's life.
Stainer's popularity was so enormous that ten times
the number of violins he could ever have made have
been attributed to him, and his name has been forged
quite as often as that of the great Stradivari.
Stainer married in 1645, and was appointed one of
the Archducal servants, 1669 ; he advanced rapidly in
favour, became violin-maker to the Emperor's court,
and was turning out instruments as fast as he could
make them, forming such admirable pupils as Klotz
VIOLINS IN GERMANY 95
and Albani, when he fell a victim to the odium
Heretical books were found in his possession, or
heretical opinions were expressed by him, or both. He
was, in fact, a Lutheran, and a Lutheran in Absam was
far too near to the preserves of Mother Church, and
very soon, like a hawk on a pheasant run, he was
shot down. Stainer was also miserably in debt, and
perhaps somewhat litigious, as people of genius and
independence of character are wont to be.
In 1677, having got out of prison, Jacobus petitioned
the Emperor Leopold, whose prote'ge and employe* he
had been, and who was a great musical amateur, for
money. Leopold lost his opportunity ; unlike Ludwig
of Bavaria, who won for himself an easy immortality
by supplying Wagner with funds, Leopold turned a
deaf ear to the immortal violin-maker.
Stainer seems to have dragged on a wretched existence
for six years longer, overburdened with care and debt.
The attentions of his wife and eight daughters did not
prevent him from going mad with worry and want;
nay, a helpless and incompetent family may even have
contributed to this so unhappy close of a splendid but
They show even now at Absam the bench to which
the wretched man is said to have been bound when his
paroxysms came on. He died in 1683, not only insane
but insolvent. His wife died in great poverty six years
afterwards, in 1689.
There seems no room in this sad life-story for his
96 OLD VIOLINS
sentimental retreat into a monastery on account of his
inconsolable grief for the death (?) of his wife. Had
she been such an inestimable blessing, we might have
expected her to have kept her gifted husband alive,
managed his household more thriftily, rescued him from
his debts, moved the hearts of his great patrons, or at
least saved him from going mad.
But, on the other hand, eight daughters were doubt-
less a trial to a couple who seemed always hard up ; and
the one son, born in 1657 and dying in infancy, as we
learn from a tombstone in the Pilgrims' Church at
Absam, deprived the great artificer of a coadjutor who
might have been interested in building up the firm,
and, perhaps, brought into it those business faculties
without which the most brilliant abilities in every de-
partment of life so often make shipwreck:
A certain Marcus Stainer, whose reputed date is
about 1665-69, and who called himself citizen and
violin-maker, it is difficult to connect with the illus-
trious Jacob, although he has been called his brother,
and some say he was a monk and actually assisted Jacob
Stainer in the workshop.
The great violinist Tartini is said to have possessed
two of this man's instruments, called Peter and Paul.
Veracini, another eminent soloist, is said to have lost
both of them in a shipwreck.
Herr von Keimer possesses a violin with label " Markus
Steiner Burger und Geigenmacher, anno 1659" (not a
very clerical label, by the way), and that is all that
can be ascertained about this other Stainer; for of
VIOLINS IN GERMANY 97
an Andreas Stainer, 1660, nothing but the name is
So everything tends to keep the ill-fated genius Jacob
apart. Alone he remains as the one important rival of
the Cremonese school ; alone he stands at the head of
all the Germans. Genuine Stainer instruments are
rare; Stainer labels, copies, and forgeries are innu-
merable, and one of the greatest curses of the fiddle
The general look of a Stainer is so distinct from that
of any maker except such as copied him, that it must
arrest the attention of even a casual observer.
The Stainer belly is much higher than the back, the
rise is kept up through half its length ; the varnish is
yellow (or as in the Elector Stainers), with a sort of
pale-rose flush in it.
The early pattern, deep Amati side-grooves, the long-
shaped, beautifully thrown end of the scroll, sometimes
a lion's head carved with the art of a Stradivari, the
narrow purfling lying close to the sides of the strong,
roundly moulded edges, the circular-topped sound-holes
rather shorter than the Cremonese, peg-box often dark
brown, contrasting with the palish-yellow belly such
are the leading characteristics of the great Jacob.
His earlier specimens bear varnish something akin to
the Amatis ; they are also of the smaller pattern. A
good example of them is one in the possession of Mr
Kussell of Bedale, Yorkshire, dated 1645.
Jacob's finest type may be seen in the famous Elector
Stainer ; of these he is said to have made twelve, ono
98 OLD VIOLINS
for each of the Electors. The popular legend refers
them to his Benedictine monastery, but there is no
shadow of proof that he ever was there at all ; perhaps,
however, if one Markus Stainer who is reputed to have
made Peter and Paul was a monk, he may have been a
Benedictine monk, and as the obscure G-uarneri who
did get locked up seems to be responsible by trans-
ference for the great Joseph del Gesu's legendary
incarceration, so Monk Markus may do duty for
J. Stainer's reputed sojourn and residence in a Bene-
dictine monastery. It matters very little when the
Elector Stainers were made; most connoisseurs are
agreed that the two quite authentic " survivals of the
fittest " are miracles of workmanship, beauty, and the
perfection of Stainer tone.
The Stainer tone! What is there about that tone,
which for 150 years so fascinated the musical world
as to dull the perceptions of so experienced a professor
as Sir John Hawkins to the more exquisite timbre of
the finest Cremonas ? No one but myself is responsible
for the following conjecture.
Perhaps there is less tonal difference between the
early Amati and the later Strad than between the
early Amati and the full-blown Stainer; and it may
have been the sharp, pungent contrast the type of
tone that was quite new, as it were an original
creation which at once arrested and held the ear of
that epoch. For, after all, musicians in the seventeenth
century were only beginning to be cultivated in the
delicate appreciation of tone nuances. The proof of
VIOLINS IN GERMANY 99
this would not be far to seek. It is quite notorious,
though to us amazing, that the differences between
the Amati, the Strad, the Guarnerius, and the Ber-
gonzi or Euggerius, should not have been more clearly
apprehended. When, for instance, a man an orches-
tral leader, too had bought a Euggerius and paid for
a Joseph, we do not find that he was dissatisfied with
it until he discovered that the label was false. The
superb qualities of the great Joseph have been appre-
ciated only since the Strad craze ; but the world-wide
cult of Strad dates from Tarisio, who began his work
of violin exploration and discovery in 1827, dying only
in 1854. But any tyro would be arrested by the clear,
sharp, biting tone of Stainer. A violinist in the
orchestra could make his Stainer cut through all the
first fiddles, and once the taste for that sort of tone
was excited, it would be to the ear what curry, or
vinegar, or quinine bitter, or absinthe is to the palate.
The Stainer tone is a sort of drastic, stinging stimulant
to the ear, almost an intoxication ; and the ear that has
been once caught by it craves for it, and misses it even
in the loud richness of Joseph, the exquisite velvety
timbre of Amati, or the superb ringing brightness of
the great Antonio.
Thus, in his own original way, Stainer met the cry-
ing want of his age for loud and piercing tone. He
was the very antipodes of the tubby, muffled sound of
the old viols. With a bound he reached the opposite
pole. The coarse ears of the multitude were at once
tickled and "grise"," as the French say, by his wiry
100 OLD VIOLINS
intensity; and soloists soon found that it was an
immense help to wield a novel and stinging timbre
which, without any special gift of theirs, awakened
attention like the roll of a drum, or the blast of a
cornet, or the tinkle of a triangle.
These considerations alone, in my opinion, account
for the popularity of Stainer in all ages ; the bulk of
hearers belong to the musically untrained, who like
pungency, and desire above all to have their ears
Just in proportion as music developed and the
musical ear got trained to higher and higher refine-
ment, so that specialities of tone became a cult for
the ear, as specialities of colour for the eye, just in
that measure did the great and subtle qualities of the
Cremona school emerge, whilst the rage for Stainer,
Klotz, and Duke declined.
I have no wish to disparage these last-named fine
artificers. The increasing rarity of their instruments,
and the really splendid qualities which we grant un-
grudgingly to the best of them, must always make
them much prized, and I fully expect that in a few
years there will be a revival of the Stainer craze, and
that his violins may then touch Cremona prices. I
shall be very glad if they do ; it will mean that at last
we shall get something like a definite sifting of this
great master's best specimens, and that in this shaking
in auction rooms, and in the cabinets of collectors, the
forged parasites and impudent copies which have for
years sailed under false colours labels (libels, I mean)
VIOLINS IN GERMANY 101
will fall off into the limbo of violin refuse and other
things " made in Germany."
The best pupils and followers of Stainer were Klotz
and Albani ; but as it became the fashion to dub every
one who made respectable violins in Germany about
that time, and showed traces of the Stainer model,
" pupils " of the great man, modern writers have grown
properly cautious about dogmatising.
If all Stainer's reputed pupils had really worked with
him, they ought certainly to have married his eight
daughters and relieved him of some of his heavy family
Sebastian Klotz or Kloz (1675) and his son Mathias
(1696-1709) made excellent violins, and some prefer
the son's to the father's. There were, besides, four
other Klotz, relationship uncertain. Sebastian of Mit-
tenwald visited Florence and Cremona; but although
when he returned to his native town he announced his
intention of making a second Cremona of Mittenwald,
he and his family adhered mainly to the Stainer
model, and reproduced very successfully the Stainer
tone. Vidal says that his sons inundated Germany
with false Stainers. Of the great violin manufactory
which, on the suppression of the Mittenwald Fair in
the seventeenth century, is said to have revived the
commercial prosperity of the town, no trace now re-
mains ; but it is certain that, whilst the Klotz family
lived and worked, a pretty steady stream of pseudo-
(or scuola) Stainers poured forth from Mittenwald till
about the year 1750.
102 OLD VIOLINS
The Albani family, like the Tecchler, stand mid-
way between the Cremona and the Absam school, but
Albani pere (1621-73) was certainly Italian, though
he was born and lived at Botzen, in the Italian
Tyrol, where he made German fiddles in the Italian
style and for the Italian market, although his son
Joseph was also bitten with the Cremona modeL
Albani's violins pass for Italian; they are varnished
red, and rival the Amati tone, and the Joseph
Albanis are more highly esteemed than the violins
of Albani pere.
It is further significant of Albani's popularity in
Italy, that the most accomplished maestro and com-
poser of the early part of the eighteenth century, Corelli,
played on an Albani. This appears certain from an
examination made by Mr Arthur Hill of the will of the
late William Corbet, who had a large collection of rare
fiddles, and disposed of them in his will, where mention
is made of an Albani fiddle, which he left with the
memorandum that it had belonged to Corelli. This
is a very interesting example of a carefully excavated
fact, and does Mr Arthur Hill great credit.
Tecchler, also called a pupil of Stainer, is perhaps
most esteemed for his violoncellos, the best of which
run the Strad 'cellos very hard. A very fine Tecchler
'cello is in the possession of Mr E. W. Hennell (1898),
and there are several others in this country. Tecchler
seems to have made few, if any, violins, which is strange,
as his master made few, if any, violoncellos ; he worked
in Borne between 1695 and 1735. His instruments
VIOLINS IN GERMANY 103
are sometimes rather cumbrous ; his varnish is yellow,
The subsequent history of "violins made in Ger-
many" is, to say the least, very mixed; nothing so
good as Stainer was done there before him, and nothing
equal to him has been done there since.
The golden age of German violin-making begins and
ends with Jacobus Stainer.
VIOLINS IN FRANCS
ITALY and Germany have to look back to their golden
age, but it seems as if France and England had to look
France and England have never yet gone beyond
a doubtful silver age, but there is good reason to
think that the manipulation and alchemy of time,
whilst thinning out by wear and tear and loss the
older gems, will not only transform the - Piques and
Lupots, and perhaps the Vuillaumes and Chanots, but
also the Banks, Forsters, and Fendts, and probably
the Dukes and Hills, into golden quality, with very
advanced prices ; and so, instead of being, like Artemus
Ward's future, behind them, they may still be found
to have their future "before them.
The French work contemporaneous with the Cre-
mona period is not nearly so interesting, nor do the
makers appear to have been nearly so capable as the
men who followed them towards the close of the
seventeen hundreds. This is no doubt accounted for
by the streams of violins pouring out of the Italian
and German workshops, the superior reputation of
Cremona, which drew at once the patronage of the
VIOLINS IN FRANCE 105
Spanish and French Courts, and perhaps the small de-
mand for stringed instruments in France compared with
the huge demand in Italy and throughout Germany.
So there was a poor market as yet for French work.
In Italy, in the luxurious little Duchies and Princi-
palities, as well as in the churches, and in Germany in
the small Electorates, each of which supported its band
and gave an indirect impetus to the churches, Keformed
and Koman Catholic, violin-making flourished, and so
it came to pass that Italy and Germany made for all
The Cremona period in France can boast of but
two considerable names, Jaques Boquay (1705-30) and
Pieray (1700-25). Boquay worked on the early Cremo-
nese model, which had already been left behind by
the modified forms of Stradivari (1700 great period).
His violins have not yet reached a high selling figure,
but may possibly rise; they are by no means scarce;
his varnish is reddish-brown, transparent, warm and
soft. He reverted to the Jerome Amati type, arching
even a little more than Jerome.
The quality of his tone is good, but it lacks power,
which in these advanced days tells against him except
for cabinet playing.
Claude Pieray (1700-25) worked in Paris, and fol-
lowed the later Amati contour, but he was far enough
removed from the Cremonese influence to follow a line
of his own. Whilst varying, some think capriciously,
the thickness of his wood, and not always securing
the best quality of wood, he varnished pale red, and
106 OLD VIOLINS
turned out a small and large pattern ; but he evidently
inclined to the larger pattern of the late Amati
A violin of Pieray's was advertised in the sale of
Tom Britton, the musical coal-heaver, as "a very
beautiful violin, and as ffovd <M a Cremona" which
shows that even at that date the Stainer influence,
then so strong in England, had not dimmed the fame
of Cremona. However, it would of course have been
absurd to compare him to Stainer, the affinity between
Pieray and Amati being too obvious.
But the really great silver-gilt if not golden age of
French violin-making dawned with Lupot (1736-58),
was extended by Pique (1788-1822), Vuillaume (1798-
1875), Chanot (1801), Gand (1802), and Aldric (1792-
1840), famous for his varnish ; and Fent,* an admirable
copyist, whose violins often sell as Lupot's copies of
The labours of these great French disciples of
Cremona, copyists and occasional forgers as they were,
are sufficient to decide for ever the superiority of the
Strad model over all others. Their lives were chiefly
occupied in reproducing the unique Antonio minutely
without attempting the least modification of the ulti-
mate Cremona form, which he had defined.
The firm of Lup6t, immortalised by Nicolas Lupot
(1758-1824), dates back to 1696 or somewhat earlier.
The father and grandfather of Nicolas Lupot resided
* This Fent is no relation, as far as is known, to the family working
in England, whose name is spelt Fendt
PLATE VIII (to face page 106)
These portraits of Tourte and Lupot, being fully
dwelt on in the text, need no further comment.
VIOLINS IN FRANCE 107
at different times at Plombiers, Luneville, and Orleans,
but Nicolas was born at Stuttgart in 1758. He
returned to Orleans in 1770.
Nicolas Lupot was a man of great discernment, and
not carried away with the fashion of the times. Al-
though during the first twenty years of his life he
must have seen and heard the German model of Stainer
extolled, neither his own work nor yet his father's
show any leaning towards it. His eye was enamoured
with the Stradivari grand pattern, and his best violins
are such loving and faithful copies of the great An-
tonio that many amateurs and some professional
judges have been deceived by them. But Lup6t [
never got rid of the glassy, chippy French varnish, j
and although his warm orange tints are generous )
and the varnish has been laid on with a lavish hand,
the rubbing bare by time of a Lupot is very different
from that fading away upon the fibres of a Strad,
where always a subtler film protecting the wood
seems to linger, a sort of mist of varnish to the end.
But Nicolas Lupot was a great workman, and, as
Hamlet modestly puts it, " indifferently honest " that
is, honest as violin copyists go. He did not imitate,
he copied, and varnished throughout; he never aged
his copies prematurely, or tried to take in buyers;
he reverenced his great Cremona model too much to
palm off his own work as those of the master. Of
course his violins have rubbed since and aged since,
but they have aged and rubbed honestly, and are
every year increasing in value, and distinctly mellowing
108 OLD VIOLINS
in tone and sensitive quality. The moment Nicolas
Lupot arrived in Paris, early in this century, his talents
were recognised ; orders flowed in, and he remained
and remains without a rival in the French school
He was appointed maker to the Paris Conservatoire,
which involved the manufacture of the annual prize
violin to be presented to the gold medallist of the
year, and to this academic privilege we are doubtless
indebted for some of his finest efforts. A violin
which would annually at the time be associated with
one of the chief musical events of the year, and come
under the criticism of all musical Paris, would cer-
tainly call forth the mettle of one who admittedly
"took the cake," but was not without formidable
One of these rivals was Pique. He was in the habit,
it is said, of buying Lupot's fiddles unvarnished,
varnishing them, and labelling them with his own
name. He had better have left the varnishing alone
and contented himself with a fraudulent label. It
is surprising that he should have stooped to such a
device. Pique is quite a considerable person, second
only to Lupot as a maker. He must have been
influenced by commercial considerations, but his dis-
honesty is a great tribute to the superior popularity
and merit of Lupot, Still Pique was so clever that
he could have afforded to be honesk
Francois Gand, who entered as Lup6t's pupil in 1802,
was much beloved by his master. He became his best
VIOLINS IN FRANCE 109
pupil, married his daughter, and succeeded to his busi-
ness in the Eue Croix des Petits Champs in 1824.
Time has invented a new industry the art of repair-
ing which FranQois Grand raised to a veritable fine art
(Mennegand, Kolliker, Eambeaux and W. Ebsworth Hill
have since rivalled him). Pique would join and split
mutilated grain in such a way that, without the aid of
a microscope, the patch or closed fissure cannot be
spotted. He would spend days over mending a crack ;
it became with him a sort of passion of ingenuity.
It was almost worth breaking a fiddle to have it
mended by Gand, and his exquisite skill and profound
knowledge as a repairer no doubt gave rise to the
common but risky notion that an old violin was im-
proved by being mended, as some surgeons pretend
that a skilful operation will not only prolong life, but
positively improve the constitution. The firm of Gand
and Bernadel is still of high standing in Paris. The
violins of Franois are useful and solidly built, but
lack altogether the Italian grace and finish of his
Pique (1788-1822) is by "some held to have run Lupot
very hard as a copyist of Stradivari Pique avoids at
once the error of the vulgar copyist, who cannot refrain
from emphasising the peculiarities of his model, and
the sin of the brazen forger, who bakes and rubs, treats
with acids, and simulates the cracks and the wear and
tear of time. But Pique had some conscience. He
may have passed himself off as Lupot, but at least he
never posed as Stradivari
110 OLD VIOLINS
Those conversant with Pique's instruments observe a
very high and conscientious finish throughout. Spohr,
the violinist and composer, played for many years on a
Lupot, and was never, tired of extolling both Lupot
and Pique. Pique died in 1822, two years before
Lupot, and his violins improve every year, and will
by-and-by fetch prices second only to those of Lupot,
which are already up to 200 (1897).
A VIGNETTE OF J. B. VUILLAUMB.
If I were to seek for an appropriate pendant to the
figure of William Ebsworth Hill in London, I could
not find a better one than Jean Baptiste Vuillaume of
Paris. Yet the two men were very different; the
careful, neat, systematic enthusiast, with a shrewd eye
to business, and the dreamy worker always apparently
in the midst of a chaos of material, out of which he
alone could select at a moment's notice what he re-
quired ; the ready purveyor of whatever sort of article
happened to be wanted, and the careless distributor of
his wares, who forgot what he owed his customers, and
kept them waiting for months ; the clever copyist, the
reverent repairer, the ingenious brain for ever evolv-
ing new sorts of bows, fiddle shapes, screws; and the
idolater of the old forms, who had so firmly grasped
the truth that violins and all that belonged to them
had culminated at Cremona before the middle of the
eighteenth century, that he never aspired to invent
anything new or alter anything old ; the Parisian, who
PLATE IX (to face page no)
These portraits of Vuillaume and Ebsworth Hill,
being fully dwelt on in the text, need no father comment.
VIOLINS IN FRANCE 111
made many fiddles, and died rich ; the Londoner, who
made few fiddles, but repaired innumerable antiques,
and died with but a moderate competence. The force
of contrast could go no further ; nay, you can look at
the two men's faces, and see the secret of their characters
writ plain enough.
I can remember old Hill's dreamy gaze, peering at
me with screwed-up eyes through his spectacles. You
were nothing in particular to him, duke or pauper ; it
was your fiddle that gave you the importance or the
reverse in his eyes. But look at Jean Baptiste Vuil-
laume's portrait it lies before me as I write: the
jaunty embroidered and tasselled velvet skull-cap, the
well-arranged black satin tie, the well-cut coat, the
grave sharp look and keen eye, not dreaming at all,
but taking everything in at a glance; the mouth a
little aslant, as we often see it in men of speculative
and ingenious minds ; the firm fine nose, and the strong
quiet face, but a face that betrays a mind ever alert,
capable of dominating its owner's gifts, his customers,
and the market generally, whilst the man was genuinely
devoted to the art and craft which made him great,
and rich, and famous. Yes, the two great connoisseurs
might well hang side by side in twin frames, for they
are two types, united by a like enthusiasm and speciality
of craft and knowledge, but differently interesting,
variously unique each in his own way.
Both were hereditary violin-makers, and the tendency
I had almost said the cult was born and bred in
112 OLD VIOLINS
Vuillaume was early saturated, in his fathei's work-
shop at Mirecourt, with all the secrets and arts of the
trade, long before he served his apprenticeship. But
Paris drew the young fellow, then only nineteen, with
an irresistible magnetism.
Victor Hugo, that typical Parisian of Parisians, has
somewhere described the Frenchman's inborn love of
his capital, the centre to him of life, art, pleasure,
movement, industry, and invention. So to Paris must
your Jean Baptiste go. But to whom? to whom
but Chanot (Francis), incomparable worker, copyist,
forger, suitable adept, indeed, for such a bright novice.
With Chanot, Vuillaume remained till 1821, when
he went over to Le'te', the organ-builder, who also
dabbled in fiddles, and was glad to have at his
beck and call as a foreman such a specialist, with all
the experience of Mirecourt and the craft of Chanot
at his back; in fact, he lost no time in taking the
young man into partnership, and the partner throve so
well that he married in 1828, being then just thirty
Things ran smoothly with Vuillaume; his wife did
not drink, or abuse him, or waste his money. His home
was happy, and, in the sunshine of domestic peace, his
talents expanded in the direction of that growing
market which was created by the taste for old fiddles,
excited by Tarisio, and supplied by the not always
scrupulous skill of Chanot.
But Vuillaume went one better than Chanot. Cha-
not's trick was to produce such deceptive copies or
VIOLINS IN FRANCE 113
patch with counterfeit backs and bellies of his own
or to forge downright a whole antique, to be foisted
upon some unwary but ill-informed enthusiast. But
Vuillaume, to his honour be it said, soon discerned
that the world at large could not be won by fraud,
but that men were the slaves of imagination and senti-
ment. This timely and philosophic discovery made
him famous and wealthy, almost at a bound. He
loved the old Italian fiddles; he had the best oppor-
tunities of seeing them; his admirable technique
enabled him to copy them accurately to counterfeit
the wear and tear, even the cracks and worm-holes, the
inlaying, the rubbed varnish, the old wood; and for
about five pounds, or even less, he proposed to provide
people with new fiddles, which looked like old ones worth
fifty or a hundred pounds.
The device succeeded beyond the dreams of avarice.
Orders poured in faster than they could be executed.
Just look at the old man's face. Can you not see the
shrewdness, betrayed by that slight pucker in the lip,
which discovered and worked this now familiar ten-
dency of human nature to possess what seems, if you
can't afford to buy what is really good ? It is the secret
of cheap art, shoddy satsuma, coarse blue china, com-
mon silks, oleographs, and sham Palais Eoyal jewellery
galore every bazaar reeks with it ; whilst the biggest
warehouses are not above selling a made-up wine that
deceives the palate, a walking-stick not ebony, only
paint or stain, and furniture not really inlaid, but
ditto ditto. So Vuillaume began early those amazing
114 OLD VIOLINS
copies, chiefly of Stradiuarius, which even now deceive
the innocent, and for a moment may even puzzle a
connoisseur. Well, it was no doubt shoddy, but shoddy
of the best sort ; shoddy raised to a fine art, like those
roses so subtly made out of silk or cambric that we
might easily pop them into water to prevent them from
This new-found copying industry was a delight as
well as a profit to the clever French craftsman.
He loved a Cremona ; he copied it as men copy the
old masters again and again, till they know every touch
of the immortal workman, and revel in its reproduction.
" I have completed," remarked Vuillaume in his de-
clining years, " three thousand instruments, all sold, all
paid for, and the money spent, and it affords me great
like Ebsworth Hill, Jean Baptiste loved to do it all
himself. Every instrument was varnished carefully by
his own hands, and many are made throughout by him.
But what is the actual merit of Vuillaume's violins ?
Fine work, yes; admirable counterfeits, yes; but the
great expectations raised by the appearances are unfor-
tunately not always answered by the tone. His best
are good, and will run into forty pounds, perhaps more ;
but his worst are dear at five pounds. Nor can Vuil-
laume pretend to rival in power his great French pre-
decessors, Pique or Lupot, who copied, but without
registering the defects of age, accident, and decay,
which are so cleverly reproduced in Vuillaume's typical
VIOLINS IN FRANCE 115
It ifi an exaggeration to say that Vuillaume baked
bis nddles; but he treated the wood chemically in
various ways, besides reproducing cracks and even
worm-holes ; and this artificial age put upon his planks
not only fails to carry the mellowness and timbre of
wood grown naturally old, but seems actually to im-
pair instead of improving its quality, and this is
but too apparent as the instruments recede in time
farther and farther from the hand of the too cunning
There are, however, a few fine quartets of instru-
ments, one of which, made for the Comte de Chimay,
was lately exposed to public view in Messrs Hill's win-
dows in Bond Street, These are varnished equally
throughout, and no attempt at aging the wood or
tampering with the surface is visible. The work
throughout is charming and finished, as in the best
Cremonese models, and the only wonder is, that as
everything about them is so good, the tone is not
better; still, everything is relative. But Vuillaume
claims to be judged by a high standard, and so we
Vuillaume'e ingenious brain was ever devising im-
provements and novelties, but few of them have turned
He made a violin tenor, but it never came into
use, it being too cumbrous. He made a steel bow;
but, although hollow, it was found to be too heavy.
He made a sourdine tailpiece which acted on the
bridge, but it has never superseded the usual simple
116 OLD VIOLINS
dummy contrivance. He made a self-hairing bow,
which is .still sold by Mr Withers; but most violinists
prefer to pay a small sum and get their bows haired,
just as most men prefer to get themselves shaved
it is less trouble, and does not cost much.
Apart from his undoubted finish as a workman, and
skill as a copyist, Jean Baptiste Vuillaume's title to
fame will rest largely on his connection with Tarisio.
As we have seen, he not only dealt with him living,
but bought all the violins found in the bedroom along
with the peasant carpenter's lifeless body.
His possession of the Messie, . which he kept in a
glass case, and never allowed any one to touch, was a
source of great anxiety to him during the Paris Com-
mune in 1870.
He writes to Madame Alard, his daughter, who
married the celebrated violinist of that name : " In my
last I spoke to you of Alard's violin and my Messie,
and of certain valuables I have here. I do not know
what to do with them, for if one survives, one will be
able to recover the valuables when the hubbub is over ;
and some sous can be buried, but violins cannot be
buried." And again: "Where ought I to place all
these in case of pillage?"
He referred chiefly to his violins, and old medals
received in the Paris Exhibition from 1827 to 1855,
and the Great Exhibition medal in London, 1851.
Later on we are relieved by reading : " I have found
quite a safe hiding-place protected from fire, et puis tl
la grace de Dieu I "
VIOLINS IN FRANCE 117
All went well with the treasures, and in 1875, when he
died, the Messie fell to the joint share of his only two
children, Jeanne and Claire. Jeanne (Madame Alard)
bought out Claire's interest for five hundred pounds,
the violin at that time being valued at one thousand.
In 1890 Messrs Hilt bonghl it foi Mr E. Crawford for
the unprecedented figure of two thousand pounds, the
largest sum ever given by a dealer for a single instru-
ment. Mr Charles Eeade valued it at six hundred,
but that was several years ago, when a first-class Strad
could be obtained for about three hundred and twenty
pounds. Prices have run up since then, and (like
" Charley's Aunt " * as we write) are " still running " !
Down to the end of his life Vuillaume was a great
dealer, and he hurried over to London when quite an
old man to attend the sale of Mr Gillot's fiddles. He
mistook the date, and arrived a day after the sale. He
came into Mr Hill's shop in Wardour Street, and gave
vent to his disappointment. Mr Hill, whom he always
visited when in London, had bought several instru-
ments, and had a second deal with Vuillaume then and
there, much to the Frenchman's gratification. It is
interesting to catch this glimpse of the two greatest
dealers and artificers of the age face to face for
one moment, and in such friendly and characteristic
* A popular comedy (1898V
VIOLINS IN ENGLAND
IT is an amusing fact that hardly a Continental writer
on musical instruments, M. Vidal excepted, has thought
it worth while to give any reasoned account of the
English viol and violin-makers who have occupied such
a distinguished place in the history of the art.
I heard the other day of an American school atlas
which left out all the islands in the world as unim-
portant details calculated to confuse the minds of
young students. England, of course, being a small
island, was one of the first to disappear,
The names of Barak Norman, Banks, Forster, and
Duke may be somewhat confusing, but we must risk
the mention of them just for the sake of an approxi-
The fact is, that in Queen Elizabeth's time the Eng-
lish were really almost a musical people. Whether
the viols came across from the Low Countries or Ger-
many or from Italy has never seemed to me a matter
of much importance. Undoubtedly the viol and its
descendants is cloisteral, and that means Italian, since
all the arts along with Christianity spread from the
great Italian centres Home, Florence, Milan, Brescia :
VIOLINS IN ENGLAND 119
and in Elizabeth's time Italian influence is as marked
in English music as it is in the Shakspearian drama, or
in these gorgeous brocades, silks, and tapestries that
still dazzle us behind glass at the South Kensington
Museum, or in such Elizabethan gems of Eenaissance
architecture as Knole and Hatfield, which seem to
touch as with the glory of a foreign world the palatial
seats " of our old nobility."
Modern music rises in Elizabeth's reign with Monte
Verde and the discovery of the octave and the perfect
Along with it rise the Italian singing-schools of
Naples; whilst the viols, improved to meet the new
demands, culminate in the Brescian, Maggini and the
Oremonese Amati patterns (the very word Madrigala,
the hymn of the Mother of God, is Italian and clois-
teral), and the viols which accompanied such part-
songs were doubtless of Italian origin.
But, for all that, the viols were genuinely naturalised
and acclimatised in England, and for a short time it
seemed as if England were even going to lead the art
of viol manufacture.
The father of Galileo the astronomer declared in
1583 that the best lutes were at that time made in
England, and we know that lute-making and viol-
making so invariably went together that in France
and Italy the violin-maker is to this day called a
" iutier " ; and J. J. Kousseau remarks, a little loosely
perhaps: "The viol passed from the Italians to the
English, who first began to compose and play bar-
120 OLD VIOLINS
monised pieces for it, and who imparted the knowledge
to other kingdoms."
Mace, an old writer and quite a musical expert
(1676), mentions the viols of Eoss (1598) and Smith
(1633) as " old instruments " in his day. But the move-
ment did not go on, and I cannot for a moment doubt
that what checked the rise of music and the manufac-
ture of musical instruments in this country was that
same Puritan craze which snubbed art, smashed the
stained glass, and mutilated our cathedrals throughout
Viols had by this time crept out of the cloister and
joined hands with the frivolous Rebek, used at fairs
and pothouses. At all events, in Cromwell's time and
the " Barebones-praise-God period," everything that
savoured of festivity was tabooed, and the ,f ury against
art seemed part and parcel of all sincere religion,
according to the masses at least.
To Cromwell's honour be it set down that he was
personally no such extremist, and that he, moreover,
saved for us Baffael's cartoons ; but still music in any
of its secular forms was mightily discouraged by the
Puritans, whilst in its higher religious form it was
associated with Prelacy and Papacy, and we have to
wait for that reaction in favour of the world, the flesh,
and the devil, which marked the Eestoration, and which
also made provision for the more innocent as well as
the more perilous delights of music in the home, the
concert room, the theatre, and the sanctuary.
In Charles I/s band (1625) there were "eleven
VIOLINS IN ENGLAND 121
violins and four viols," so at last the violin was
creeping up; but not until Charles IL's restoration
did the full-fledged violin come in with a rush of
" f our-and-twenty " fiddlers, over whom presided no
less a person than the immortal Thomas Purcell, who,
in a brief span of life, achieved his almost Mozartian
fame, and died at the early age of twenty-seven, just
ten years younger than the incomparable Wolfgang
The King had no doubt got his notion of fiddle
bands from Louis XIII/s " petits violons du roi " ; and
from the French Court, our "merrie monarch" bor-
rowed a good many other ideas of a less respectable
and harmless character.
The King was so seriously addicted to music that
he could hardly hear a sermon and never eat his dinner
without the solatium of his four-and-twenty fiddlers.
"They played before him at his meals," writes
Anthony Wood in the diary of his life, " as being more
airy and brisk than the viols " ; and the grave Evelyn
much resents the invasion of the upstart " petit violon "
and its profane intrusion. He writes in 1662: "One
of his Majesty's chaplains preached, after which, instead
of anthem or solemn wind music accompanying the
organ, was introduced a concert of twenty-four violins
between every pause, in the French fantastical light
way, better suiting a tavern or a playhouse than a
Tis an ill wind that blows nobody and nothing any
good, and we cannot doubt that his Majesty's royal
122 OLD VIOLINS
mistresses* like the Duchess of Cleveland (Barbara
Palmer), the Duchess of St Albans (Nell Gwynn, the
actress), the mother of the Duke of Monmouth (Lucy
Walters), the Duchess of Portsmouth (Louise de
Querouaille, a French girl), greatly favoured all the
more frivolous diversions with which secular music,
and especially the new-fangled violin, were associated.
These ladies were bound to be musical, as music
undoubtedly delighted the "merrie monarch," and
flattered his jaded tastes by its frequent novelty and
The revellers at Whitehall soon attracted to the
capital the greatest violin players from foreign parts.
The supremacy of the new violin pattern was achieved,
and the rage of virtuosity began.
Even John Evelyn succumbed to the witchery of
Thomas Balzar, a Swede, who arrived in 1656. He
seems to have been the Paganini of the period, and
electrified the Court. Evelyn calls him "incompar-
able"; he played off at sight the most amazing diffi-
culties with ravishing sweetness and " improvements " ;
he played a full concert on his single instrument, so
that the rest flung down their violins, acknowledging
the victory. As to worthy Mr Paul Wheeler and
Mr Mell, who were the Spohrs and De Beriots of
their day, they had to hide their diminished heads.
We are not surprised to hear after this that his
Majesty installed the great Balzar as director of his
twenty-four violins, retained his services at court, and
buried him in the cloisters of Westminster Abbey.
VIOLINS IN ENGLAND 123
It will be convenient to focus our attention on
English violin-making about this time, for doubtless
the arrival of these foreign players, and the popularity
of the king's band, gave a great impetus to our native
manufacture. The supply of foreign violins, for which
there was now a growing demand abroad i.e. t in
England and France began to give out as the cen-
tury waned. There were plenty of old viols, but no old
violins to fall back upon; the violin was a new pro-
duct; and, as the court set the fashion, we should
naturally expect the English viol-makers would be
wide awake to the importance of supplying the new
want, and such was the case.
The Brescian and Cremonese fiddles were hardly
known in England, and what the Italians made were
chiefly for home consumption.
As the English were great viol-makers in Elizabeth's
time, we may ask : Why did they allow the Italians to
take the lead in violins? Why is the English school
of violins at least fifty, and the best English violins
a hundred years later than the early Cremona chefs-
d'ceuvre? Why is Nicolo Amati's date 1596-1684,
whilst W. Forster is 1713-1801, Duke 1769, and Banks
1795 ? The answer is not far to seek : the fact that
violin manufacture was checked by the Puritan move-
ment in England, whilst its progress in Italy was
steady and continuous, enabled the Italians to steal
a march upon us which turned us into pupils, and
pupils afar off too, when we resumed the industry,
I do not eay that the superior climatic conditions and
124 OLD VIOLINS
generally the art atmosphere of the small Italian
courts must not also be taken into account ; but when
attention was called to improved tonal quality, and
a timbre, power, and sensibility undreamed of by the
old viol-makers became de rigueur, in response to the
demands of virtuosity and the advance of the musical
art, Italy was bound to win; such Tyrolean woods,
such varnish, such sun, such sentiment, as was required
for the perfect evolution of the violin, could hardly be
found outside Italy. Both Spain and Germany con-
fessed to the fact, nor could England put it aside.
Accordingly, the highest praise that was ever given
to an English maker was given to Benjamin Banks
(1727-95), who was called "The English Amati"; but
to this day no one has ever been called " The English
Stradivari' 1 !
Passing by Aireton (died in 1807), who copied Amati,
but used yellow varnish; Henry Jay (1744-77); the
famous kit-makers (the kit is a tiny instrument with
normal neck and finger-board, used chiefly by dancing-
masters), the Kennedys, father and son (1730-1870),
most prolific but mediocre fabricators, chiefly of violins
and tenors ; Panormo and Parker, the two first excellent
eighteenth-century makers; we make special mention
of John Eayman, one of, if not the earliest, English
violin -maker. "An extraordinary Rayman" was
amongst the violins owned by Britton, the musical
coal-heaver. Urquhart was also a maker of exceptional
Pamphilon (1685) was a fair and excellent workman,
VIOLINS IN ENGLAND 125
high model, moderate tone, with quite splendid varnish.
"Peter Walmsley, at Ye Golden Harp in Piccadilly,"
good copyist of Stainer and an excellent maker, we
are bound to notice on account of his early date and
more solid reputation.
"Barak Norman" worked and sold fiddles at St
Paul's Churchyard (1683-1740). His label runs thus,
with a *%* and crown above it, similar to the labels of
Del Gesu, some of which he may have seen: "Barak
Norman and Nathaniel Cross, at the Bass Viol in S.
Paul's Churchyard, London, fecit 1702."
Mr Walter Brooksbank of Windermere had one of
the Cross viol da gamba, in which, after the style
of the early bell founders, the instrument is supposed
thus to speak for itself. "Nathaniel Cross wrought
my back and belly" (the scroll and sides being by
Meares, about whom little to speak of is known,
except that he was probably a pupil of Eayman's, is
reputed to have taught Barak Norman.
Meares is known to have adopted the Brescian
model. He was probably the earliest English maker
of violoncellos. He retains some of the decorative use
of purfling, which rapidly went out as the new violins
came in. He runs his purfle into his monogram with
attendant flourishes. Meares made at first chiefly
viols, after that tenors of excellent quality.
His violins are much esteemed. He was a close
copyist of Maggini.
Three of his viols were exhibited in the South
126 OLD VIOLINS
Kensington Loan Collection of 1872, but one of them,
dated 1690, had been cut down.
It remained for Stradiuarius, in the dawning year of
the eighteenth century, to discover and fix the model
of the bass viol that needed no cutting down.
The musical world owes a debt of eternal gratitude
to the Forster family ; there were four of them.
" Great-grandfather John (1683), maker of spinning-
wheels and violins.
" Grandfather William, the Forster, commonly called
"Father William, No. 2, who also made spinning-
" William, No. 3 (1764-1824)."
His sons, the two brothers William (1733-1824), and
Simon Andrew (1731-1869).
The second Forster (1739-1807), William, called
" Old Forster," bears off the palm.
Born in the north, a native of Brampton, he made
his market, like his father, out of the spinning-wheel
industry of Cumberland, but he was a many-sided
man, a great repairer of viols, and afterwards a maker
of violins, the greatest maker in the north the greatest
maker in all England
He commended his violins to the public by playing
on them himself. He was not beneath playing at
country dances and on village greens.
We may be sure he never lost an opportunity of
parting, for a consideration, with the violin he played
upon since naturally, people would often be seized
VIOLINS IN ENGLAND 127
with a desire to possess themselves of an instrument
which they had heard discourse such excellent music
and to the purpose.
Indeed, I have sometimes known professors in these
days who would so cunningly play to their pupils that
they have been able to palm off for considerable sums
quite inferior instruments,
How much more easy must it have been for the man
who made them, and made none but the best, and
played them on occasions when his purchasers' spirits
were high and their dispositions yielding, to dispose of
his exceptional wares.
About 1759 Forster seems to have concluded that
Cumberland was played out, and, sighing for new worlds
to conquer, he came south. He was quite a young man,
but in the great whirlpool of London, as it was even
then, he seems to have sunk so low as cattle-driving,
but that is in itself a tribute to his versatility and
pluck. Presently he sets up in the Commercial Boad,
East, but finding there neither demands for spinning-
wheels nor fiddles, takes to gunstock-making, till he at
last "strikes ile" with one Beck, of Tower Hill, and
there makes such fiddles that Beck grows fat while
Forster remains lean.
Unable to get his wages raised, he leaves Beck in
1762, and sets up at Duke's Court, a site now occupied
by the National Gallery.
For about ten years Forster adopted the high Stainer
pattern, then so popular in England, and attracted the
patronage of amateurs like Colonel West, Afterwards
128 OLD VIOLINS
he set up in St Martin's Lane, and then went to
348 Strand. He had by this time attracted the
attention of royalty, and the Duke of Cumberland,
George Ill's son, is said even to have once dined with
him off black pudding.
Old Forster's versatility and enterprise is still further
shown by his opening communications with the great
Joseph Haydn, and it is chiefly to him that England
owes the introduction and publication of Haydn's im-
The shrewd old man doubtless saw the profit which
lay hid in a scheme which would popularise the greatest
writer for stringed instruments who ever lived, and he
had not miscalculated.
The same cleverness which prompted him to give the
English a dose of the Stainer model when Stainer was
the rage, prompted him to revert to the later Amati
grand pattern as he reached his ripe maturity. He
also changed his varnish before the close of his life,
and is said to have found the secret of solving amber
with the assistance of the chemist Delaporte, who in-
vented some stuff known as the Verins Martin,
Amongst his patrons were George III., who, as
Prince of Wales, was fond of playing the violoncello,
probably one of "Old Forster's/ 1 and who, when he
asked Haydn, who had been listening to him, how he
thought he played, received the altogether diplomatic
reply, "Vy, your 'ighness do play like a Brince."
Peter Pindar (Dr Walcot) and Bartolozzi the en-
graver were also amongst Forster's patrons. He made
VIOLINS IN ENGLAND 129
but four double-basses, and his tenors and 'cellos are
thought better of than his violins. They are steadily
rising in value. He died in the same year as Haydn
(1808). His son William already suffered much from
the foreign competition, which was just beginning to
tell, the duty which protected the English manufac-
tures having been removed.
William made some very good instruments, but they
do not equal his father's; and he made a great deal
of rubbish for the trade besides.
There was no doubt a certain erratic vein in the
Forster family, which in Old Forster took the shape of
amazing versatility and profitable enterprise, but which
in his son and grandson degenerated into speculative
eccentricity. The son went in for buying grocery,
and invested in other bad businesses. The grandson
turned out very unmanageable, but clever and many-
sided; he worked for a time with Thomas Kennedy,
but got away from him and went in for play-acting,
sometimes taking a turn in the orchestra at the violon-
cello desk. He made about fifteen instruments alto-
gether, two or three of which only approached the
Forster high level. He died in 1824, suddenly, whilst
still quite a young man.
His brother Simon made a large number of violins
tenors and 'cellos; they are those signed S. A.
Forster, but they do not rank very high. He was
the first to write a history of the violin, and has
deserved well of all succeeding writers, who quote
him with a touching simplicity of faith, as though,
130 OLD VIOLINS
forsooth, because the first, he must needs be the best
At the name of Benjamin Banks all tenor and
'cello players lift their hats; for although the later
importation into England of Cremonas has somewhat
obscured our countryman's fame, his splendid work
even surpassed, as some think, by his sons James and
Henry is bound to hold the market again; and a
name extolled by the great virtuoso Lindley, whose
favourite instrument was a Banks, is not likely to be
neglected by Lindley's successors, even though they
may be the happy possessors of Stradivari basses.
Benjamin Banks (1727-1795) was a contemporary
of Old Forster (1713-1801), but there is no reason
to suppose that the two artificers ever met or mate-
rially interfered with each other ; for Banks worked at
Salisbury, whilst Forster worked in London, and no
express trains bore fiddles or fiddle-buyers swiftly to
and fro in those days.
Benjamin Banks copied Nicolo Amati very closely ;
but Mr Sandys speaks of a rare long-shaped violon-
cello of his quite of the Stainer pattern, with the
round-topped Stainer sound-holes. This was none
other than the great Lindley's famous instrument
which so nearly escaped destruction in a coach acci-
dent. The passengers had a bad shaking and a bad
spill, and Lindley and his violoncello among them;
but the rare enthusiast, in the midst of the con-
fusion, had but one thought. He flew to his 'cello-
case, and was found seated in a ditch, quietly play-
VIOLINS IN ENGLAND 131
ing away to assure himself that his beloved was
Mr Lucas had an excellent Benjamin Banks violin,
but Banks tenors and violoncellos are more esteemed.
Banks made no double-basses; his varnish is yellow-
brown, of excellent quality, but badly laid on, that on
his bellies being often clotted, so that, in technical
parlance, it is said to kill the grain.
The Earl of Pembroke, who presumably knew no
better, ordered a violoncello of Banks to be made en-
tirely out of an old cedar-tree, which had been blown
down in his lordship's park (Wilton). It was, as might
have been foreseen, a great failure in tone. Of course
Banks made it "right enough," and pocketed the
money, but it is doubtful whether the Earl ever got
his money's worth.
I remember a very carefully made violin, all of silver,
another expensive freak of ignorance and eccentricity ;
doubtless it sounded like a tin kettle, and was musically
of no use whatever. Some of us may have heard an
ingenious itinerant violinist playing on a tin biscuit-
box with similar results.
Benjamin's scrolls are not very elegant, but that
does not affect his tone. Benjamin had a very good
idea of his own importance, and probably, too, a sus-
picion of the extent to which his name would be taken
in vain after his death. He tried to make this more
difficult by not only varying his labels in about four
different ways, but also stamping his instruments in
several places with his own peculiar seal, B,B.
132 OLD VIOLINS
Benjamin's sons fell far below their father, but the
old man left quite a number of white unvarnished
instruments in a cellar when the business was sold, all
of which were duly completed and sent forth with his
name, to which, however, they have but a partial right ;
for, as his sons worked with him, it is by no means
certain that every fiddle in Bank's shop at the time of
his death was made by Benjamin p&re.
Duke (1754-69) was remarkable as having largely
contributed to create in England the Stainer furore
which so confused the judgment of amateurs in this
country, and retarded for at least fifty years the
triumph of the Stradivari grand pattern. In reality the
best Dukes are on the Amati pattern, but they are few
in number, and though there are innumerable fraudu-
lent Dukes about, a real Duke is seldom seen. The
fraudulent Dukes exaggerate the high bellies and deep
grooving of the earlier Amati, and thus pass for Stainer
pattern. Duke's varnish is also of a yellow or yellow-
brown hue. It is not likely that Duke's reputation
will increase, though the rarity of genuine Dukes and
the plentiful number of counterfeits may still run up
a few real specimens to fancy prices.
I cannot close this brief" survey of the old English
makers without a mention of Bernard Fendt (1756-
1832. He was originally a Swiss cabinet-maker, but
coming to London, went into business with Thomas
Dodd, for whom, and with whom, he began to make
violins. Jfendt soon got hold of another cabinet-
maker, a compatriot, and Dodd took him also into the
VIOLINS IN ENGLAND 133
business. These two clever artificers soon raised Dodd's
business to great prosperity, and Dodd thus had the
honour of putting his own name in their violins. All
he had done, however, was to varnish them, but he did
chat superlatively well, so that Dodd's varnish became
as famous as Dodd's bows.
Fendt afterwards left Dodd and worked for John
Betts, who was famous for his imitations of Amati,
which he said paid better than making fiddles with his
own name in them. Many of his best imitations were
made by Fendt, who has thus created the reputation of
two makers besides himself. His son, who died only
in 1851, would have equalled his father had he not
been seduced by the vicious practice of prematurely
aging his violins, thus pandering to the taste for old
fiddles at the expense of the fiddles themselves for it
is notorious that such frauds do not improve by age.
A VIGNETTE OF W. E. HILL,
Dark yes, to my eyes very dark ; but the light in
William Ebsworth Hill's old shop in Wardour Street
was good enough for him ; a greater glare might have
flouted those hundreds of old brown fiddles, and dusty
debris of fiddles, which that very moderately sized estab-
lishment was hung, lined, strewn, and littered o'er with.
So the dim light, relieved on foggy days with a
casual gas-jet, or even a candle-end, seemed better than
the garish sunlight for that dusky brood even as the
moonbeam, according to Sir Walter Scott, touched the
134 OLD VIOLINS
grey ruins of Melrose more tenderly than the light
There were no electric lamps in those days (in 1870),
consequently no patent asbestos appliances for con-
verting the impure London gas into a specious and
Mr Hill tried to do too much, In his back shop
he conducted repairs, and frequently brought his "re-
pairs " into the front shop. I have seen him there,
behind the counter, busy with gouge, knife, or scraper.
When customers or applicants for advice arrived some
with cheap German fiddles which they fondly believed
to be rare specimens of Cremona, others with their own
good, bad, and indifferent instruments to be done up
they were received one and all with the same mild
and tolerant inattention, born not of incivility, but of
abstraction. Such as knew Mr Hill in those days,
knew the nearest approach we shall perhaps ever see
to the great Cremona makers. I do not say that
any of Mr Hill's work (barring his exquisite repairs
and carving) is likely to rank with theirs ; he was an
admirable maker, but he very soon left off making.
When the duty on foreign violins was removed there
poured into England a continuous stream of fiddles,
which entirely swamped the demand for new ones of
English make. Mr Hill, following the market, turned
his attention to repairing and dealing; but the art
and craft atmosphere, the knowledge, the familiarity
with violin constitution, the infallible intuition and
single-minded love of the violin lor its own sake,
VIOLINS IN ENGLAND 135
M a thing of beauty, wonder, mystery, more than
enough to monopolise a lifetime of devotion this is
what made Mr Ebsworth Hill the spiritual heir of
Ihe grand old fiddle-makers. "Why," he said to me
ance, "talk about not knowing the touch of this or
that maker ? I know the sort of tools Stradivari or
Joseph used. I can see the mark of a special favourite
knife here or gouge there. I know which way he used
to cut and slice, and how he held his tool for such and
euch a kind of finish. I can see 'em at work, and the
handling of one is no more like another's than the
touch of one painter is like another's."
When you took a fiddle in to show Mr Hill, you
had to wait Mr Hill's good time ; he seldom answered
immediately he was spoken to, but would look up
dreamily through his spectacles without laying down
his file or knife, and let off some such dogmatic and
eracular sentence as: "You want to know how I can
lell a fiddle. Well, I don't know how I can tell ; and
here are days when I don't trust my judgment days
[ can't see, for instance. I leave off looking at fiddles
for a day or two; and when I come back I take up
this fiddle and that, and just at first I can't see any-
Idling those fiddles tell me nothing; it's a peculiar
/state of mind just as a player or a surgeon's hand
gets out, so a judge's eye gets out. I know exactly
when I see and when I can't see, and when I can't see
I hold my tongue; and I know exactly how much I
can see, but I don't tell everybody." The casual visitor
eould make very little of old Hill at first Therg
136 OLD VIOLINS
was a curious sort of inner otherwhereness to coin a
word about him. Some people found him very trying
indeed. You never knew whether he heard what you
said ; but when at last he favoured you with a remark,
you discovered that he had not only heard your words,
but that he had accurately gauged you.
His action was often unexpected and sometimes
alarming. I one day entered his shop with a friend
who had a fiddle which he much prized, and indeed
it was a really valuable instrument, but needed over-
We both stood in front of the counter, and old Hill
was bending over a scroll that he was fitting on to a
new neck. I addressed him on behalf of my friend, but
he took no notice whatever ; he remained absorbed in
his delicate adjustments; and no Prince of the blood
would have fared any better than we did until he had
finished what he was about. Again I mentioned my
friend's name : " Mr has brought you his fiddle to
look at by my advice. Perhaps you can tell him what
ought to be done." Hill looked up, nodded, eyed my
friend through his spectacles with cold interest, and
then resumed his work. I had to rouse him a second
time before he seemed to grasp the fact that my
anxious friend had taken his precious Cremona from
its case and was standing with it in his hand ready for
the magician's inspection.
At last Hill laid down his tool, and taking the
instrument in his hands, gave it one quick glance and
a couple of taps; he then deliberately looked in its
VIOLINS IN ENGLAND 137
astonished owner's face, tore off the finger-board,
loosened the neck, and drove a knife under the belly.
The fiddle was soon in pieces, and he threw the loose
fragments aside in a heap, took up his repairs again,
and said he would attend to the matter by-and-by,
and the gentleman need not stop ; and we got no more
out of old Hill that day, who immediately became re-
absorbed in his work.
I shall never forget the rueful and amazed look with
which my poor friend beheld the tearing to pieces of
his Cremona, but I touched him on the arm, and seeing
that Hill was in no mood for talk, got him out of the
shop, assuring him that it was all right, and that the
great repairer had shown more interest than usual in
his valuable instrument, or he would never have torn
it to pieces then and there; and with such words I
strove to comfort my perplexed and anxious friend.
I am bound to add that although Hill kept him
waiting several months, when the fiddle came back its
owner was more than satisfied, and declared that he
then heard his Cremona for the first time.
Mr William Ebsworth Hill came of a family of
violin-makers and violin-players. Joseph Hill, who
was born 1715, was proud to trace his descent from
the "Mr Hill" mentioned in Pepys* Diary as being
employed to alter his lute and viall.
Joseph was a prolific and excellent violin-maker, and
carried on business in the early part of the eighteenth
century at the sign of the Harp and Flute in the
138 OLD VIOLINS
He had five sons ; all made violins and three played
professionally, whilst the other two, like the present
four brothers Hill in Bond Street, followed their
father's vocation alone. The third son, Lockey Hill,
was the father of Henry Lockey Hill, who became in
his turn the father of William Ebsworth Hill, known
in the middle of this century as Mr Hill of Wardour
Street. Hill's father, Henry Lockey, an excellent
violin-maker, died in 1835. The Hills seem prolific
in sons, and Lockey left four sons. Henry distin-
guished himself as an admirable quartet player, and
well do I remember the splendid tone of his Barak
Norman tenor at Willis' Eooms as far back I think as
1848, when, with Sainton, Piatti, and Cooper one of
the best, as it was almost the earliest string quartet cast
in London he assisted in delighting and educating a
select public in the mysteries of chamber music, which
has been since so freely expounded by Ella's Musica*
Union and the Monday Popular Concerts.
Berlioz always spoke of Henry Hill in terms of the
highest praise ; he even went so far as to say that he
considered him one of the first performers in Europe.
It is seldom that a tenor player ever comes in for
direct commendation. He acts as a sort of go-between
to violoncello and violin; but his individual efforts,
although so important to the combined effect, are
usually lost sight of between the grand work of the
bass and the brilliant lead and musical embroideries of
the first and second violins.
There are fao few concertos or strong parts written
VIOLINS IN ENGLAND 139
for the poor tenor, the Cinderella of the establishment,
which is regrettable when one thinks of the glorious
violas of Maggini and the Amati. Mr Hill's Barak
Norman is now the property of Mr Doyle.
William Ebsworth Hill, our great repairer, connois-
seur, and dealer all in one, was born in 1817. He was
educated at the Borough Road School, under the well-
known Dr Lancaster, but it is certain that he went early
to the bench, for at the age of fourteen we find him
employed in cutting bridges in his father's workshop.
For this purpose he used only a bradawl and a knife,
and towards the end of his life he returned to bridge-
cutting, and has left many beautiful specimens. His
sons have a collection of two hundred, and no two of
the same pattern ; they have also reverently preserved
under glass his simple tools. He worked with extra-
ordinary rapidity, equalled by his fastidious finish.
He preferred the commonest tools, so only they were
of the finest metal. He used to scorn the mechanical
labour-saving appliances which now enable workmen
to turn out hundreds instead of dozens of fiddles, and
he heartily despised artificers who needed an elabo-
rate plant before they could produce anything decent.
A good maker, he was wont to say, could make a
fiddle "with a knife and fork." Mr Hill's skill in
bridge-making on one occasion misled so eminent a
judge as Monsieur Fe"tis, of the Brussels Conservatoire.
In 1851, the Prince Consort having expressed a wish
to hear a concert of old instruments, a viol d'amore
which was to be played by Ebsworth'a bjotber, Henry
140 OLD VIOLINS
Hill, required a new bridge, which Ebsworth very
quickly made. I remember hearing Hill perform on
this viol d'amore with seven strings, at one of Monsieur
Julien's Popular Concerts at the old Surrey Gardens.
The elaborate arpeggios were most fascinating, and
unlike anything I ever listened to before or have ever
heard since. In due time the viol d'amore, which had
been lent by the Brussels Conservatoire, was returned,
and Monsieur F6 tis, who was the Principal, and engaged
at that time in writing his valuable monograph on
Stradivari, was very much bent upon hunting up old
bridges. He happened to pitch upon the viol d'amore
bridge, which he declared to be a highly interesting
specimen of the artistic work of the great Cremona
period. Mr Alfred Hill, one of Ebsworth Hill's sons,
happened to be at Brussels, and his attention was called
to Monsieur Ftis' eulogium on the antique viol d'amore
bridge. "That," says Mr Alfred to Monsieur Victor
Mahillon the curator, "is not an old bridge; it was
cut by my father." An incredulous smile overspread
the worthy curator's face, which was quickly changed
into a look of apologetic admiration and surprise when
Mr Hill, junior, turning up the bridge, pointed to
" W. E. Hill" stamped upon it.
Ebsworth Hill's father died in 1835, and not long
afterwards Ebsworth, wishing to perfect himself in the
technique of his art, went to study under the accom-
plished maker Charles Harris, of Oxford.
About 1838 he set up for himself in St George's
VIOLINS IN ENGLAND 141
Mr Woolhouse, the well-known collector, was one of
his earliest patrons ; but his fame soon spread, and he
found he had more work than he could well manage.
He was also much resorted to as one of the few men
whose judgment on a violin admitted of no appeal,
and who could be trusted to give an honest opinion.
From Southwark, Hill went to Wardour Street, which
for many years was as much the violin quarter in
London as the Kue Croix des Petits Champs is in
Paris. It was there, when I was little more than a
boy, that I first made Mr Hill's acquaintance. I used
to take him my fiddles, and I was always drawn to the
young boys, his sons, who frequented their father's
shop, and had the profoundest sense of his importance
and ability. It is not too much to say that Arthur,
Alfred, William, and Walter Hill have enjoyed unique
opportunities from their earliest childhood, and have
not failed to qualify themselves assiduously for the high
position that the firm of Hill & Sons now holds in the
The boys inherited violin tendencies. They were
steeped from childhood in violin tradition. They had
special chances for seeing, handling, and diagnosing
most of the great violins now extant. No time or
money was spared by their father on the boys' educa-
tion, and certainly no boys ever made a better use of
Alfred and Walter went to Mirecourt, to study all
that could be taught in the most scientific and cele-
brated workshop in the world.
142 OLD VIOLINS
Arthur stayed at home and kept his eye in, being
always in close attendance on his father, and never
missing an opportunity of acquiring a new fact, or a
fiddle, old or new, which was likely to bring grist to
the mill or credit to the firm.
From what has been said it may have been inferred,
and not erroneously, that Ebsworth Hill was not,
financially speaking, a business man though he did
all his own business. For years everything that came
into the shop passed through his hands ; he made every
repair, doctored every fiddle, adjusted every screw,
regulated or replaced every sound-bar and sound-post,
and even strung the fiddles for his clients with his own
hand in short, he did or closely superintended every-
thing; division of labour, to the extent to which it
is now carried, being a thing unknown in those early
That such a system could not bring in large profits
was obvious. Hill had many bad debts; his memory
for fiddles was infallible, but his memory for accounts
shocking, and he was cheated right and left.
His fame was so widespread that orders poured in
which could not be executed ; and when the old man's
apparently inexhaustible powers of work began to give
out, the sons, who had watched proceedings for years
and slowly qualified themselves for every department,
came in and broke up the one-man system not before
financially confusion was becoming worse confounded.
They trained their workmen, distributed the work,
kept proper accounts for the first time, and in a few
VIOLINS IN ENGLAND 143
years built up what is, perhaps, when considered in all
its branches, the largest individual violin-dealing in-
dustry in the world.
Mr Hill was a man of striking appearance: thin,
spare, with light hair, and moustache early gone grey ;
blue-grey eyes, very keen; a thoughtful face, often
lighted up with a whimsical smile for the man was
full of humour, though mostly of a genial sort.
He was very much more of an all-round man than
people who merely conversed with him on violins would
suppose. Highly educated, in the usual sense of the
word, he was certainly not; but he had a great ac*
quaintance with human nature, and an extraordinary
insight into character.
His sly remarks on men and their manners, including
their morals, were a perpetual feast to all who were
admitted to his intimacy. In his own special line he
was without a rival. He did not always say what he
knew, but he never said what he did not know.
He was frequently appealed to in doubtful cases,
but was greatly opposed to litigation, and it was
difficult to extract from him any opinion likely to
lead to it.
Once in the witness-box he was what the lawyers
call a dangerous customer. His manner was per-
fectly quiet, assured, and straightforward. He was
absolutely decided, and would never budge from his
opinion, and under pressure of cross-examination often
raised a laugh at the expense of counsel.
His sons have treasured many of his wise and witty
144 OLD VIOLINS
sayings. On one occasion he refused to sell to a cus-
tomer who already owed more than he could pay.
Hill remarked dryly when the gentleman had left the
shop, " That man's complaint is wind in the pockets."
Of an amateur who was proud of showing off his style
on his fiddles, Hill, looking up from his work, would
say with a comical twinkle, "Hark, now, he's doing
The manner was often worth more than the matter.
His memory was as extraordinary as Tarisio's. On
one occasion a claim was brought against a railway
company for sixty pounds' damage to the belly of a
violoncello. The company demanded a valuation, and
damages to be assessed by Hill. The claimant at last
angrily submitted. Hill reported on the instrument,
which he repaired for about thirty shillings. Five
pounds he thought would be very liberal damages.
The owner was furious, and would not even accept
fifteen guineas. Mr Hill was at last called up, and
made the following unpleasant statement: "This in-
strument does not belong to this man at all. It is one
of the instruments belonging to her Majesty, and used
by the members of the private band." The soi-disant
owner was perfectly dumbfounded, but was obliged to
confess that he had actually borrowed the instrument
when employed as deputy in the Queen's Band several
years before, and had never restored it. Mr Hill had
only seen it once before.
A violin, said to be by F. Panormo, was sold as
such by a dealer in Pentonville Road, It came into
VIOLINS IN ENGLAND 145
Hill's hands many years afterwards, who was asked
to take it in part payment for another violin. He
said : " This fiddle was not made by Fanormo ; it was
made by my father about the year 1812 for my brother
Henry, and owing to the difficulty of getting good
foreign wood, my father made the back and ribs from
English maple. It could not possibly have a good
tone, but I should like to have it, and will allow 10
for it." Mr Hill immediately proceeded to remove the
belly. On the inside was written in pencil, " Made for
my son Henry in the year 1812."
Mr Hill led an extremely abstemious life. His
only relaxations were reading and long walks on
Sundays. Towards the close of his life he found
himself surrounded by his sons, superintending a large
staff of workmen, and his workshops at Hanwell,
adjoining his country home, are well known. For
some years before he died the direction of affairs had
practically passed into the hands of his sons, whom
be .bad so admirably trained to succeed him, and to
them is entirely due the present great commercial
prosperity of the firm.
William Ebsworth Hill sank gradually from senile
exhaustion of brain power, and died in 1895, aged
WHEN a true chesiist enters a laboratory fitted tip
with the usual mysterious tubes, crucibles, "baths/*
and general apparatus for distillation, and his nose
scents the aroma of gums, spirits, essential oils, and
what not, he experiences an atmospheric sensation
which enthuses him for his work. What the odour
of stables is to the lover of horses, or the smell of
paint to the artist, that is the laboratory aroma to
I have no insight into crucibles, and I don't like
smells. The proportion of subtle weights and measures,
avoirdupois or troy, are beyond me; the disputations
of science and the general incapacity of scientists to
agree about mixed problems puzzles and sometimes
"impatients" me, as the French say.
In wading through various treatises on Cremona
varnish I regret to say I have experienced vague
emotions of annoyance and perplexity which I would
fain conceal from the reader. I should like to pose
as the clear exponent of the famous Cremona secret,
or hold some one fixed opinion, buttressed by argu-
ments weighty enough to confound all opponents, and
VIOLIN VARNISH 147
based upon the " triumphs of modern research." The
triumph of modern research seems to me to consist in
the discovery that we have as yet failed to discover
the Cremona varnish, as, although we may speculate
about it and at moments seem to come very near
the mark, as yet we cannot make the stuff, or, at all
events, apply it in Cremona fashion to our new fiddles.
It may be consoling, but not very satisfactory, to
reflect that no one has mixed it or applied it in
Cremona fashion since about 1750 ; but that fact only
serves to whet the curious appetite, and each writer
braces himself for renewed disquisitions, visits work-
shops, and scrapes bits off Cremonas when he can,
perhaps dabbles himself with gums and alcohol, and
pumps fiddle-makers with a view to wringing the
secret out of the Cremona sphynx.
So entirely mixed is the whole subject that the
violin world can't even decide in what the proper
functions of the varnish consist. One maintains that
it is merely for the preservation of the wood, another
that it greatly affects the tone, and the third that
it is chiefly decorative.
To me it seems almost a truism to say that the
varnish is good for all three purposes: that it pre-
serves the wood is certain, though exactly how is
open to discussion ; that it affects the tone is equally
certain, though exactly how is still a moot point;
that ifc is decorative is obvious, though taste in the
colouring has varied with each school of makers as
much as some makers have varied with themselves.
148 OLD VIOLINS
For my part, after reading a dozen disquisitions on
the Cremona varnish, and inspecting hundreds of fiddles
for a quarter of a century, I applaud the courage and
reticence of Mr George Hart, who, in his valuable
book on old violins, gives just five pages on Italian
varnish, with an intelligent description of its various
appearances, a brief quotation from the inimitable
writer Charles Keade, and not a single recipe.
As I am not writing for violin-makers, but only
for collectors, I shall certainly not rush in where
authorities like Mr Hart fear to tread, and shall
content myself with a few probable suppositions and
a few more generally descriptive remarks.
Some authorities maintain that the wood should
be first saturated with oil before the colouring varnish
is applied, a practice which has a tendency to clog
the pores, so that until some age has been put on and
the wood has become desiccated and shaken free from
the grosser oily particles, the vibrations are stifled and
the tone consequently dull.
Others declare that the sizing of oil should not
penetrate the wood far, but leave it free to desiccate
by itself, and merely act as a sort of veneer for the
colour varnish which has got to be spread over the
transparent oil covering. The wood, in fact, has to be
sized first and varnished afterwards. Taking this view,
the process would be something of this kind: The
white belly is cut from fine pine which has been six
or seven years drying in the sun, but never exposed
to rain and waits patiently for its anointing, A stick
VIOLIN VARNISH 149
of that resinous gum beloved of artists, gamboge
yellow, from Gamboga, Siam, or China, is then pow-
dered and dissolved in pure alcohol; sloes are some-
times added, or when a yellow ground is not desired,
sandarak and the long resinous tears of benzoin are
treated with pure alcohol. When the back, belly,
and ribs are thoroughly dry, the colouring, like a
flavouring to taste, is added.
The chief colouring ingredients appear to be of
two kinds of sandal-wood, one yielding red orange
tints, from Calcutta, and the other a deeper red, from
the Coromandel Coast. An alcoholic solution of these
is mixed with essential oil of turpentine, freely oxydised
(or exposed to the air) and laid on the perfectly dry
surface in successive layers, each layer being allowed
to dry separately.
The colour coating thus lies like an agate film over
the oil sizing, and through the top varnish as through
coloured glass may be seen dyed orange, or red, or
brown all the delicate curls and fibres of the wood,
shown up as by a kind of Kontgen rays by the oil size.
We are told that the resins used may be divided into
hard and soft, and that of these the soft, such as mastic
and dammar, are the best, because the most elastic and
friendly to the waves of vibration. The mastic and
dammar resins seem to unite, in the greatest perfection,
the three essential properties most suitable for varnish
elasticity, solidity, and transparency.
The Cremonese are said to have used nothing but
the soft resins. The much-talked-of, old-fashioned
150 OLD VIOLINS
dragon's blood, a resinous gum from the Draconian
Draco, does not seem now to be commonly forthcoming.
The Calami Draco of Borneo has taken its place. The
old dragon's blood has been much talked about, and
credited with giving a certain splendid sanguineous
flush to some of the rare Cremonese bellies upon which
the judicious amateur dotes.
And now, what is amber varnish ? The usual answer
is, there is no such thing. Certainly it was never used
by Stradivari, for it is said the secret of fusing that
hard gum was only discovered by Martin the chemist
in 1737, the year of Stradivari's death. On the other
hand, I hear that amber has been found in the varnish
of Giuseppe del Gesii by what analysis I do not know.
The usual way of rubbing a violin and smelling the
surface has always seemed to me to furnish a most un-
reliable test. One saith, " I smell benzoin " ; or another,
" I smell mastic " ; and a third, " I smell amber " ; and a
fourth, " I smell nought " ; and this battle of olfactory
organs is like to go on, as saith the poet
' 'As long as man has passions,
As long as life has woes " ;
or, as we may say
" As long as man has nose."
So here I desire to take my leave of this thorny sub-
ject, and with a sense of relief I abandon crucibles to
the expert, and oils and resins to the disputatious,
merely reminding our collectors for practical purpose
that the Brescian varnish is soft and brown, but with-
VIOLIN VARNISH 151
out the magical Cremonese transparency ; the Cremona
is amber-coloured (early) or (later) light red orange,
and sometimes velvety brown, and very soft and glossy
as it rubs away.
The Venetian varnish of many shades is very clear;
the Stainer, yellow- brown, with a subtle roseate flush
at times; the normal German, brown and muddy;
the French, Cremonese in colour, but glassy and chip-
ping rather than soft and glossy. Some of the English
varnish is remarkable, that of Dodd even approximating
closely to the Cremona school, etc.
On the whole, the best solution of the Cremona
mystery seems to me that it was probably no mystery
at all, which also best accounts for the disappearance
of the varnish towards the middle of the eighteenth
century. It is absurd to suppose that the varnish used
by at least one hundred makers for more than one hun-
dred years (for Italian violins from 1550 to 1660 up to
1740 all have it) could have been a secret; it was pro-
bably the ordinary varnish of commerce, superseded by
the quicker and more convenient spirit-varnishes which
came in and thrust it out of the market, and these
ready-made compounds proved excellent for furniture
which is not prized for its resonant or variously tinted
qualities, but they unfortunately put out of court the
kind of varnish best suited for violins the yielding,
soft, elastic oil varnish; and the very ingredients, e.g.
dragon blood (of the liliacese trees), ceased to be in de-
mand, and consequently disappeared from the Italian
162 OLD VIOLINS
The materials being now absent, the varnish was
differently composed. The trick of mixing it got lost
along with the stuff to be mixed, and the Cremonese
secret, once an open secret, lapsed and lapsed, as it
seems, most irrecoverably.
At one time every one knew how the ancient war-
galleys were rowed ; how the Pyramids were built ; how
Stonehenge was poised ; how the Medicean poisons were
distilled, and how the old masters mixed their colours;
now no one knows.
Of the Cremona varnish it must be written, as we
have to write of these unexplained disappearances of
the lost and missing
" Gone, and made no sign."
"To scrape the inside of a cat with the outside of a
horse " is far from an accurate or exhaustive description
of violin playing, nor can I understand why violin
strings are called cat-gut at all, since they are made
from the intestines of the sheep, goat, or lamb, and
have absolutely nothing to do with pussy.
I can only suppose that the frightful and melancholy
tones habitually elicited by inexperienced players may
have reminded people of the nocturnal cat sufficiently
to credit that maligned animal with providing part of
the mechanical apparatus for their production.
Of late years a great deal has been said about the
extreme importance of the strings, of adapting the
player to the fiddle's constitution, etc. I freely admit
that some players with very strong hands, like Lindley
and Dragonetti, can manage thicker strings with effect
better than people with weaker muscles. I also admit
generally that it would be a mistake to string a sensitive
old Nicolo Amati with thick strings, which a robust
Joseph or Bergonzi might be able to bear ; that a raw
new fiddle to be rubbed down in the orchestra will also
take to thick strings ; and that it is pretty obvious, as
154 OLD VIOLINS
every player knows, that one cannot stop fifths in
good tune if the strings are not relatively well pro-
It is also a truism that it is best to buy the best
strings, and that false strings are abominable. But I
do not go much beyond this, and I would say about
strings what I say about bows, that bad workmen
always complain of their tools, and that, as Paganini was
able although as a mere trick to discourse excellent
music with a tobacco-pipe or a reed, so his admirers
were often surprised to notice that he would go into
the concert room with his strings very much out of
Practically I do not suppose that one violinist in
fifty uses a string-gauge ; he soon learns to judge
sufficiently by the eye what his fingers want, what his
tone requires, and what his violin exacts.
Still, in these days of analysis and detail, there
being nothing left untalked about, writers have fas-
tened quite within the last thirty years on the strings ;
but I have often noticed that players who fuss most
over these details, which are doubtless of importance,
are those who are least able to avail themselves of the
perfect conditions which they seek. Perfect gut, rosin
by rule, and an exquisitely poised bow, no more make a
fiddler than scientific sanitation makes a healthy sub-
ject. I cannot too persistently urge that the violinist
bends conditions to the magic of his will and his
His business is to qualify himself, and then get the
VIOLIN STRINGS 155
best fiddle, bow, and strings that he can. This ought
he to do, and not to leave the others undone.
There is no reason to suppose that any advance in
the manufacture of gut-strings has been made since
the seventeenth century. Even a work by Le Eoy,
dated 1570, gives the best recipe yet known for the
detection of false strings.
"It is needful," he says, "to prove them between
the hands in the manner set forth in the figure " (which
we reproduce) ; and he goes on to explain what every-
body now knows that if two lines only appear, the
string is true ; if more, false. But he fails to add that
such a rough test only holds good for the thinner and
simpler woven cords. In Doni's book (1647) we find
such subtleties as these : " There are many particulars
relating to the construction of instruments which are
unknown to modern artificers, as, namely, that the best
strings are made when the north (and the worst when
the south) wind blows " a suggestive hint relating to
the acknowledged importance of atmospheric, perhaps
magnetic, and at any rate climatic, conditions.
How do we make our strings ?
Putting aside mature sheep and goats, we kill our
young Italian lamb in September. We open him at
once, and take the intestine whilst still warm ; stretch
it on an inclined plane; scrape it and clean it
thoroughly without delay. We then steep it for
about fifteen hours in cold water, with a little car-
bonate of soda, and then substitute tepid water for a
few hours more.
156 OLD VIOLINS
Now we are ready to remove the fibrous or muscular
membrane from between the peritoneal and mucous
membrane. This is done by women, who scrape it
with a cane. The precious selected membranes are
then soaked in jars containing an ammoniacal solution ;
they are then rubbed through the fingers three times
a day, treated with permanganate of potash, cleaned,
sorted, cut, and split: and, finally, the threads are
spun three or four thin threads for first violin strings,
three or four thicknesses for the second, six or seven
for " D " string. Double-bass strings take up to eighty-
five threads. Further twistings, soakings, and polish-
ings take place, into which we need not enter, and the
strings are finally dressed with olive oil and then
I have gone into these details to show with what
care and complex elaboration string manufacture is
The false string is due to inequalities, lumps, and
varieties of texture in the gut; and if only the defec-
tive part can be distributed either near the head or
the tailpiece, outside the vibratory length, your false
string becomes true. This is why the experiment of
reversing the string, putting tail portion headwise or
vice versd, will sometimes remedy the defect.
For the fourth or silver string the gut or silk (which
is used) is wrapped with pure silver, or copper, or alter-
nate silver and copper wire. The beautiful French
patent silver fourth, as smooth as polished steel, is
incomparably best for solo playing ; it is also thinner,
VIOLIN STRINGS 157
in my opinion too much thinner, than the mixed silver
and copper fourths, which are very serviceable for
rougher orchestral work.
The vice of silver strings is to rise (and of gut strings
to fall) with heat ; but if your screws are in perfect order,
and you are expert enough, you will remedy either by
a rapid subtle twist during a bar's rest, or a quick
nipping the head of the peg between the first and
third joint of your left-hand forefinger. I have seen
Sarasate tune two pegs thus in the course of a very
Mr Hart may be accepted as a final authority on
the relative merits and the different schools of violin
strings at present in the market, and his dicta sub-
stantially agree with my own experience. Of course
he gives the palm to the Italian strings, which is largely
due to the good climatic conditions, which enable their
manufacture to be carried on in the open air and sun-
light of that favoured clime.
In Eome strings are yellowish, hard, and brilliant,
and a little rough in finish.
The Neapolitans are smooth, soft in texture, and
whiter in appearance.
The Paduans polished, durable, and frequently
"false." Strings "made in Germany" (Saxony), as a
set off against the swarms of trade German fiddles,
rank next to Italian.
The French rank third. Their larger strings are
better than their seconds, which are often brittle;
their patent first accrilelles, made of silk, are hard
158 OLD VIOLINS
and brilliant, but not comparable, in my opinion, to a
fine Koman gut " E " string.
The English make a good, serviceable, dull green
looking string, durable, uneven, and not unfrequently
false. To my mind, English strings are only fit for rank-
and-file orchestral fiddling, but not good enough for the
leader. Mr Heron Allen, who has given great attention
to such details, says that the best strings in the market
are imported from Signor Andrew Kuffini of Naples,
but I have always had a weakness for Koman strings.
Too great caution, however, cannot be used in
buying strings. Never buy from any but the best
firms; they can't afford to keep "job lots, going vera
chep " these may be bought up by provincial houses
and retailed to an undiscerning public.
Notice that small "job lot" people do not know
how to keep their strings or, I should rather say,
they keep them too long and too dry.
It does not follow that even the best strings will
turn out successes if they have been kept too long or
I once ordered 1 worth of Roman " E " strings for
myself, and another 1 worth for a friend. They all
arrived as dry and brittle as mummy wood ; they all
snapped as I put them on. In about a week I got a
furious letter from my unfortunate friend who had
trusted me all his strings had snapped.
I have but one counsel to give. Take the best
firm's advice and pay the best firm's price if you
can afford it. Always keep a couple of tested, i.e.
VIOLIN STRINGS 159
stretched " E " lengths in your case. If you are a soloist
this will save you some annoyance and delay should
your " E " string go in the middle of a performance.
So far, then, and no further, need I discuss violin
strings ; but there are two other violin adjuncts not
important enough to call for a separate chapter. I allude
to the mute and the chin-rest. The mute is occasionally
fixed on the bridge to give the sound that singular
faint far-off twang like the whisper of a ghostly violin.
The mute has the singular property of making the
violin abnormally sensitive for the time. The mute
is made of wood, metal, or vulcanite; personally, I
much prefer the metal mute it does the business
more thoroughly. It is not a good practice to use the
mute habitually while practising to subdue the sound.
The violin really resents the use of the mute at all,
but will put up with it for a short time (just as a
good horse will not resent a spur or a bearing-rein in
moderation). For a minute or two after the removal
of the mute the violin does not quite recover its tone ;
some of the particles in its wood have been exposed
to a different or eccentric vibration by the dominating
mute, and the full tonal vibration is not immediately
recoverable. It is as though you had put a man in
boots with leaden soles for a time, and then suddenly
freed him ; he would not at once regain his full supple-
ness of movement.
Quite within the last thirty years the cult of chin-
rests has become almost universal. When I was a boy
people held the violin honestly under their chins, and
160 OLD VIOLINS
a few used a silk pocket handkerchief. I much prefer
it to this day; but something between the chin and
the violin is no doubt good for the protection of old
instruments already too much rubbed by centuries of
beards and bristles.
I have nothing to say against the various velvet,
vulcanite, and ebony fixed substitutes for the homely
pocket-handkerchief, except that in my eyes they are
extremely ugly, and to my chin extremely uncomfort-
able ; but I may be very much out of date, and in such
minor matters "chacun h son goUt" or, as Pepys
would say, " there's an end onV
HE who wields the violin bow aright wields ttie wand
of a magician. If ever mortal could call the spirits
from the vasty deep, it is the virtuoso who throws into
sympathetic vibrations the cords of a Cremona.
The wood of his wand, from the forests of Fernam-
buc or Pernambuco, choice and seasoned, and delicately
graduated and tapering, receives through the varying
pressure of his five fingers the waves of his personal
The back of his thumb will often touch even the
hairs which are in direct contact with the strings, and
therefore the psychic and emotional vibrations of the
artist's soul are wedded closely to the physical pulses
of sound which throb in the agitated air column of the
Cremona, and flow forth in the air waves (like light
and heat), filling space with their musical magnetism,
and seeking only the medium of kindred spirits and
suitable organisms to utter through the vibrating
human nerve tissues of others the open secrets of the
No Mesmer, or magician of the East, controls a more
subtle force than does the violinist, who, face to face
162 OLD VIOLINS
with his audience, lifts his tapering wand and rules
" Tides of music's golden sea setting towards eternity."
By those who indite exhaustive historical or con-
structive treatises on the violin the bow, like the
violin, has been treated archseologically we have been
led up to ancient monuments and shown bows (or things
supposed to be bows) on vases, sculptured frescoes,
missals and other monkish manuscripts. We have
been sent out to wild islands and continents, and intro-
duced to the Eavanastron bow of ancient Ceylon ; the
bow of the Moorish rebab ; the ninth, eleventh, twelfth,
and thirteenth century viol bows of Europe all more
or less primitive, with sometimes gut for hair, or hair
loose, hair limp, and with no means of regulating its
tension except by the introduction of the fingers to
press the hair or tighten it for a moment.
In Paul Veronese's Marriage at Cana (Versailles) this
is well shown. Paul himself was a viol player, and
apparently held his bow chiefly by the hair for this
same regulative purpose.
C. Simpson (the division "viol"), 1667, gives a some-
what more advanced viol bow, in which the hand splits
the difference between wood and hair and rests on
both (Fig. iii.). Of course, when held to the chin, this
clumsy finger regulation of the hair tension would be
less convenient to manage, and hence we come upon
the eighteenth century with a strip of notched metal
(Fig. iv.) and a movable sliding nut.
Jos g/> n ua rnerius
I Corel 1 1 I]00
PLATE X (to face page 162;
This plate of backs, bellies, and bows, lias been fully
explained in the text.
VIOLIN BOWS 163
As for our purpose the violin proper began in the
eighteenth century with the emergence of its true type
from the viol tribe, so for our purpose the violin bow
begins with the emergence of the violin. A glance at
the bows of Corelli (1700), Cramer (1770), Viotti (1780),
and Tartini (1740) (Fig. vi.) will show the evolution in
the direction of the Tourte bow ; and although Tourte
(1740) is generally credited with substituting the screw
for the cre*inaillere, it will be noticed that Corelli's
bow (1700) has already got the screw. But is the
Corelli bow authentic, or in reality a bow subsequent
to 1740, the earliest working date of Tourte pbre?
With Francois Tourte, the younger son, culminated
the art of violin bow making. He is the Stradivari of
the bow. We give his portrait, but father and son
were both master-workers. Although the Stentor (Fig.
vi.) bow's head has superseded, for some reason, the
more rounded form of Francois Tourte, nothing has been
done since in advance of Tourte, and "after Tourte"
is still the greatest recommendation a bow can have.
It is easy to see what called forth Frangois Tourte.
He came in answer to a need. He doubtless heard of
Tartini and examined his bow. It was comparatively
short and cumbrous. Forty years afterwards Viotti
comes to Paris, and with him dawns a new era in
violin playing. Refinements and delicacies of tone,
upper shifts and varieties of execution, various styles
of bowing, dealing with staccato, arpeggio, and rubato,
methods varied and brought to perfection, demanded
qualities of balance, lightness, and elasticity which
164 OLD VIOLINS
would have been quite thrown away on the old sawing
and scraping school of the seventeenth century. The
very Cremona violins, beginning to mature as the
century waned, called aloud for a suitable and sym-
pathetic companion to caress, excite, charm, draw
from them their sweetest tones and most vigorous
FranQois Tourte was rescued from the clock -making
business, to which he had been early apprenticed, by
the sheer bent of his own genius. His brother, who
worked with his father, was not the genius, and, as is
often the case, the father failed to see which of the
two sons was to carry on the fame of the house, and
there may have been jealousies and disputes besides.
The poor stuff given Frangois to work upon when,
after eight years of watch-making, he was allowed to
enter the parental workshop a little, suggests that he
was the male Cinderella of the family.
He had to deal with strips of old sugar-barrels and
fashion them into bows, which he sold for about fifteen-
pence each. But as soon as he got a free hand he ex-
perimented with all kinds of wood, and arrived at the
conclusion that the only wood suitable for his purpose
was Fernambuc wood. It combined stiffness and light-
ness, but was very difficult to obtain, on account of so
many ports being in those disturbed times blockaded.
Fernambuc wood was only imported for dyeing pur-
poses, and the price had risen in Paris to five francs a
pound. Then, as only pieces with straight grain were
required, whole trees might be cut up in search of a
VIOLIN BOWS 165
few likely strips. This accounts for the high prices
of Tourte bows, even when first produced.
They were doubtless largely labours of love with this
matchless artificer, who could neither read nor write.
The nut would be often made of tortoise-shell, jewelled
with mother-of-pearl, and gleaming with a gold screw (
button. These cost 12, and would now fetch, if ever
they came into the open market, fancy prices. His
bows, mounted in silver with ebon nuts, sold for three
guineas, and now fetch 30.
Tourte pbre originated the backward bend of the
bow, which is not cut but artificially bent by heat ; but
both the father's and the eldest son's bows are held to
be now too short for the strain of execution put upon
them by modern players not so Francois Tourte's,
and all bows made " after Tourte."
He fixed the proportions length, between 29134
inches and 29 '528 inches. The weight of the bend is
nicely poised with the gold, tortoise-shell, or ebon of
the nut ; in each is a small wedge, as may be seen in
Fig. viii., which nips the hairs and keeps them flat. The
fine selection of hairs, 150 to 200 (modern exigencies
require more, or up to 250), the careful flattening of it
out, the preference for live hair, or hair combed out
and not taken from dead horses who may have lain
some time in the shambles ; above all, the exquisitely
graduated thicknesses, now held to be de rigueur, all
characterise the intuitive genius of Tourte.
I say advisedly "intuitive genius," for Tourte had
no education but that of a watch-maker. This may,
166 OLD VIOLINS
indeed, have given him his fine sense of delicate and
exact proportions, but it is still remarkable that exami-
nations of the diameter of Tourte bows in different
places give uniform results. The bows swell or taper
in the same place, and as the air columns in the violins
of Strad give the same note, so do the bows of Tourte
yield the same proportions, which it has not been found
safe or expedient to depart from.
Violin bows may be smaller or larger, i.e. shorter
or longer, as far as I can see, without any detriment
to Tourte's principle; children, women, and excep-
tionally long armed men may have to use them,
but the proportions, the wood, the balance, even
the mechanique, must be left as Tourte left them
The one point in mechanique in which the invention
of F. B. Vuillaume may be thought to have improved
upon Tourte is in his fixed nut for viola, tenor, or
violoncello bows. This consists of a metal nut, which
alone is moved by the screw up and down inside the
main nut, which remains rigid ; thus the length of the
hair exposed for playing always remains the same.
The only other original maker of the first rank and
excellence, who has been nicknamed the English Tourte,
was John Dodd. He was born in 1752, and lived chiefly
at Kew, and there he was buried. He was always out
at elbows, even when his reputation was at its height.
Poor Dodd had his friends and admirers. He was his
own worst enemy; he was undersized in stature, and
walked with a shuffling gait. He wore his clothes until
VIOLIN BOWS 167
they were in rags, and a broad-brimmed hat somehow
gave him an additionally dilapidated air.
I am afraid he drank, for although his habits were
said to be regular, the most regular of them all was
his four daily visits to the public-house, where he
consumed what to less experienced topers seemed an
immoderate quantity of a drink called " pearl."
When the old fellow was known to be excessively
hard up, kind Mr Eichard Platt, a musical professor
of the town, and Dr Selle*, who has given us some of
the above details, came to the rescue. But the bow-
maker tired them all out, and ended at last in the
I will not say whether he can be exactly cited as a
frightful example of the degrading effects of liquor,
for he died of bronchitis at the altogether respectable
age of eighty-four.
Indeed, he had his qualities; no bribe or stress of
want could make him swerve from his sense of what
was due to his art.
His wood is as magnificent as his workmanship. He
doubtless had his secret, but it was possibly one that
he could not impart. He would take no apprentice,
for fear he should learn the trick; and whether he
could or could not teach it, he refused 1000 offered
him by some one who wanted to learn it. Dodd's bows
are not very uncommon; he died only in 1836, and,
strange to say, these true musical wands do not run
into a five-pound note yet (1898).
John Dodd the bow-maker must not be confounde4
168 OLD VIOLINS
with Thomas Dodd the fiddle dealer and varnisher,
who employed Fendt and Lott to make the fiddles.
John Dodd the bow-maker was the brother of Thomas
Dodd. John lived in Blue Bell Alley, Mint Street,
Southwark, before he went to Kew, but the rustic
suburbs suited his habits, and as he had acquired a
European reputation before he died, it little mattered
where he lived.
Vuillaume of Paris made excellent bows, and even
founded a school of bow-making. Many bows that
don't sell as his are stamped "d'apres Vuillaume,"
"scuola de," which is certainly more respectable than
a forged label to which violin dealers do so commonly
Vuillaume's hollow steel bows have never "caught
on," though good players have used them now and
again. But then a good player can use any bow,
and whilst a good bow is a luxury, a real violinist will
be able to perform very respectably with a bad one.
It is said that Paganini on one occasion excited the
wonder and enthusiasm of his audience by performing
on his instrument with a long churchwarden clay pipe,
and at another time with a rush !
It would be unfair even in a sketch like this, which
only professes to seize the salient point of general
interest to collectors and amateurs, not to mention
Jacques Lafleur (1760-1832), an admirable imitator
Lupot, brother of the great violin-maker (1774-1837),
was the first to line with metal the groove in the under-
VIOLIN BOWS 169
side of the nut, to prevent wear and tear of the ebony
Domininique Peccate (1810-74) is also thought to
have almost rivalled Tourte. He was originally a barber,
and transferred the delicacy of hand required in ton-
sorial operations to the fine adjustments and elegant
tapering and octagonal proportions of violin bows.
Peccate went to Vuillaume in 1826, stayed with
him eleven years, and then became foreman to FranQois
Lup6t. He ended his life at Mirecourt, where he
began it; latterly he worked entirely on his own
We have now among us one James Tubbs, whose
bows are already known throughout the world owing
to their attractive appearance and good balance. Time
will alone decide Tubbs' position in the scale of bow-
makers, for time alone will determine the question
of "last," "warp," and flexibility, and general en-
durance of efficiency.
On rosin, about which pages have been unnecessarily
written, I have but one word to say get it pure.
You can do this by confining yourself to the best
shops, or those who deal with them. Go to Hill,
Chanot, Hart, Withers, and Vuillaume.
Some ignorant people talk of rosin as "greasing
the bow." Smooth horsehair or greased horsehair is,
of course, useless. It is not the absence but the pres-
ence of friction which sets the strings in vibration;
it is the surface of the horsehair, roughened by in-
finitesimal particles of rosin, which prevents the horse-
170 OLD VIOLINS
hair touching the string with a continuous pressure,
so that it receives in reality a succession of tiny shocks.
This is what renders the succession of vibrations so
rapid as to sound continuous.
Without rosin, the violin, in spite of strings and
bow, and the art of all Cremona, would be mute.
To average rosiners let me give a word of advice,
early given me by my old master, Ouri, pupil of Frank
Mori: "Don't rub the horsehair down smooth with
long sweeps, but powder the rosin off into the hair
with quick rubs and a light hand ; in this way you
avoid rubbing the oleaginous particles of the gum
I notice that the best players use plenty of rosin
and never let the bow get thirsty. I remember the
matchless violinist Eemenye taking up my violin and
bow and calling aloud for rosin. "Why, you have
no rosin on; you cannot expect the violin to speak
without." Yet I thought my bow had plenty of
rosin on, but it was not enough for Eemenye, who
powdered it away in clouds. But please to remem-
ber that, however thirsty the bow may be, the violin
does not require to drink, and the habit of smothering
and smearing its beautiful smooth belly with thin gluti-
nous dust is a most vile one, and worthy only of third-
rate second violins at fourth-rate music halls. These
musical galley-slaves may not have time to clean up ;
you of the Stradivari and the Amati violins and the
Tourte and the Dodd bows ought to have, or you
are no fit guardian of such treasures,
THIS extraordinary man, originally an obscure Italian
carpenter, at once created and answered that demand
for Italian violins which followed both in England,
and to a great extent in France, the rage for the
German, and especially German of the Stainer and
Luigi Tarisio, like W. Forster, eked out the scanty
income which he derived from making tables and
benches for the peasants by playing dance music on
a very poor fiddle at village routs.
He wandered from place to place, what time the
vintages were being gathered in, and the simple folk,
who turned out in their Sunday finery for a little re-
laxation and merriment, doubtless regaled the Italian
carpenter with open-hearted hospitality, whilst he, in
return, mended their benches and fiddled for them at
the vineyard cabarets.
Our Charles Mathews has given in his delightful
autobiography interesting glimpses of that free, open-
air, open-hearted life; for he also, for a time, lived
amongst these rustics of a favoured clime, enjoying
their simple pleasures, and contributing in bis ows
172 OLD VIOLINS
peculiar way, by his histrionic gifts and a somewhat
free-handed distribution of coin, to their revels and
Luigi Tarisio soon began to be dominated by the
spell of his violin; he got to notice other violins, to
repair them all in the way of trade, to possess them,
not always very honestly, pitting his own growing
knowledge of their merits against the ignorance or
necessity of their owners. Gradually Tarisio the car-
penter and Tarisio the fiddler seemed to be merged
in Tarisio the cunning repairer and Tarisio the still
more knowing buyer.
He bought chiefly by exchange, for money he had
little or none; but he began in the early years of
this nineteenth century to lead that nomad life as
it seemed to outsiders, the life of a common pedlar
which enabled him to glide without suspicion into
half the sacristies and convents in Italy.
Wherever he went, bag on shoulder, and basket of
tools in hand, his cry was not " knives to grind," nor
"shoes to mend," but "violins to repair."
He usually had with him a decoy violin or two, in
the shape of common fiddles in good playing order;
and over a glass of lemonade or a bottle of wine, in
some local cafe* or monasterial domicile of priest or
cathedral musician, the cunning Tarisio would view
with unaffected pity the miserable old battered Cre-
monas which were then lurking in a thousand eccle-
siastical nooks, split as with the "wolf," ill-adjusted,
ill-strung, and generally out of sorts, and whipping out
VIOLIN TARISIO 173
his common fiddle in perfect order, would play a few
notes on each, so manifestly to the disadvantage of
the Cremona that an exchange was soon effected, and
Tarisio would decamp with an Amati, a Strad, a Joseph
or Bergonzi treasure, which, after a little clever mend-
ing, might be worth a fortune; and in this way he
possessed himself, often for a few francs, of instru-
ments which now fetch over 1000 in the open market
if ever they get there.
Tarisio, with the infallible instinct of a born col-
lector and connoisseur, in a few years was able to gauge
accurately the merits of the different great Italian
makers. He knew exactly where to rank the Amatis,
and how to separate the qualities of the great Nicolo
from those of Andrea ; he understood the supreme
excellence of Antonio and the power of Giuseppe, and
all other grades of merit of which even the admirers
of the Cremona school in England seemed entirely
ignorant of. All Amatis at that time were lumped
together, and Stradivari and Giuseppe Guarneri were
hardly known at all.
But Tarisio knew all this, and a good deal more,
before he tossed his heavy bag of old violins one day
over his shoulder and set out, they say, on foot, or
anyhow else he could, for Paris; for what market
was there in Italy for such priceless Cremonas when
their owners were prepared to give them up for fiddles
worth from five to twenty shillings ?
But why did Tarisio go to Paris? He probably
judged wisely that the Stainer craze, and the huge
174 OLD VIOLINS
crop of common violins then being made in Germany,
would have killed his market nearer home. Then he
must have heard when a boy how Napoleon I. had
ransacked the art treasures of Italy, and how, under
the advice of the cultivated Marquis d'Aveze, who
had narrowly enough escaped the guillotine in 1793,
the great conqueror had inaugurated a high Art
Exhibition for the people.
The famous bronze-gilt horses from S. Marco, Venice,
the Dying Gladiator, the Apollo Belvedere, the Cupid
and Psyche from Kome, and Raffaello's Transfigura-
tion itself, had been carried in triumphant procession
through the streets of Paris, and installed in a vast
hall for the benefit and instruction of the people. Of
course a rage for everything Italian was the result, and
the shrewd Tarisio may have thought, why not a rage
for old Italian fiddles ?
One day in the year 1827 there arrived at the shop
of M. Aldric, at that time a famous violin dealer in
Paris, a travel-worn man in ragged clothes, who had
begged and fiddled his way for days and weeks across
country. He carried a huge dustman's sack over his
shoulder. He seemed to M. Aldric a very poor sort
of pedlar, grimy and unkempt enough to claim kinship
with the man who had " used somebody's soap sixteen
years ago, since when he had used no other."
The fashionable violin dealer was at first inclined to
show him the door, but probably something in Tarisio's
independent manner betrayed that indefinable quality
we call character, and, more in amusement or out of
VIOLIN TARISIO 175
pity than with any serious intent to make a deal, M.
Aldric allowed the pedlar to empty his sack of fiddles
on his counter. It is easy to imagine his astonishment
at what he saw ; but he seems to have kept up his indif-
ferent manner, not supposing the poor creature before
him could be in the least aware of the treasures he
sought to dispose of.
M. Aldric was soon undeceived.
He quickly found the tables turned upon him.
The clever French tradesman was conversing with the
greatest violin connoisseur that the world has ever seen,
or in all human probability ever will see, for no one can
ever again have Tarisio's opportunities, even should he
unite in himself Tarisio's extraordinary qualities.
Now, the pedlar, with all his enthusiasm and self-
sacrifice, was a man of exceeding cunning, and had that
tact, quickness, affability, and bonhomie which is well
known to tourists in Italy, and has often proved so
fatal to the amateur of old laces, pottery, and objects
de vertu, or to such as may have tried to do a little
fancy collecting as they passed through the Italian
towns, and haggled over bargains in small curiosity-
shops and market-places. So, with due astuteness, the
shrewd carpenter had not brought his best wares on
this his first visit; he had come on a voyage of dis-
covery, and only produced a small pattern Nicolo
Amati, and half a dozen Maggini, Kuggerii, and such-
like. He had with him no Strad, no Joseph, not even
a grand pattern Nicolo, but he had brought enough.
M. Aldric, concealing his emotion, and fervently
176 OLD VIOLINS
hoping the shabby man did not know the value of
his wares, offered him a small sum for the lot, which
Tarisio refused, doubtless with those picturesque in-
vocations of horror to the Virgin and all the Saints
which seem necessary to the Italian who attempts to
convey to a " screw " the mingled indignation and pity
excited in his generous and artistic breast by a mean
Tarisio was certainly disappointed; but he forgot
that he himself had to create the market; and so at
last he left, with his empty bag indeed, but with his
ragged pockets far from full.
Back to Italy, back to his monasteries and cabarets,
a little dazzled ; but, with unabated energy, he recom-
menced his search.
He was now beginning to be known far and wide as
a clever repairer and a convenient dealer. As his stock
of good, bad, and indifferent fiddles increased he could
offer a greater selection, and readily parted with the
worst ones, nicely done up, to his ignorant and confid-
ing but not over-wealthy Italian patrons.
When next he journeyed to Paris he met with a dif-
ferent reception. Vuillaume, Thibaut, and Chanot the
elder opened their privileged doors to him, and espe-
cially Vuillaume had the acumen to see that in Tarisio
he had lighted upon what gold-diggers call a veritable
" pocket," and gave him higher and higher prices for the
harvest of Amatis, Strads, Guarneri, and Bergonzis which
now flowed steadily into Paris through this odd medium.
Tarisio was far more than a connoisseur and dealer ;
VIOLIN TARISIO 17?
he was a singular and most whole-hearted enthusiast.
As the novelist Charles Eeade (who was himself a great
fiddle dealer and knew Tarisio) has well said, "The
man's whole soul was in his fiddles. He was a great
dealer, but a greater amateur. He had gems by him
which no money would buy from him." Mr Eeade
then goes on to relate how once, when a splendid
equipage rolled by him in Paris, the carpenter re-
marked, "He would sooner possess one Strad than
twenty such carriages." He would stalk the back
or the belly of a valuable fiddle until he recovered
the whole, just as the Eoman antiquary stalked the
fragments of the Hercules Farnese, finding the trunk
in one place and the head in a ditch miles away.
Chanot had stumbled upon the cracked belly of a
Strad violin in Spain. Ortega, the fiddle-maker, had
sold the remainder, ribs and back, to a Spanish lady,
fitting them nicely with a brand-new back made by
himself! The precious belly caught Tarisio's eye in
the shop window, and he at last worried Chanot into
parting with it for 1000 francs. Off went Tarisio to
Madrid, extracted from the bewildered Ortega, who
had sold the patched Strad, the required information,
interviewed the donna who possessed the patched
Strad, and who, after the fashion of the high-born
Spaniard, at once said, " Sir, the instrument is at your
disposition," which only meant that she would part
with it for a consideration, or what she considered
to be the good round sum of 4000 francs. This waa
a mere bagatelle for such a treasure, which, refitted
178 OLD VIOLINS
with its own belly by Vuillaume, ib now known as the
It was sold for 800, and exhibited in the south
Kensington Collection of 1872 (No. 188).
On one occasion, says Charles Reade, Tarisio was
crossing the Bay of Biscay with his famous Spanish
Baas. The ship rolled; Tarisio clasped his treasure
tightly and trembled. It was a terrible gale, and for
one whole day they were in real danger. " Tarisio spoke
of it to me/' continues his friend, "with a shudder.
'Ah! my poor Mr Eeade/ he exclaimed, 'the Bass
of Spain was all but lost!" 1 As to Tarisio also being
lost, that did not seem to matter so much I
It is not too much to say that, with hardly a
memorable exception, all the great Cremonese and
Brescian fiddles, which now command such prix fous,
have passed through the cunning hands of Luigi
Tarisio the pedlar, and most of them have at one
time been benefited by the tender and artistic skill
of Vuillaume, his great patron.
When Tarisio, who by this time wore a decent
coat, and no longer carried Cremonas in a sack on
his back, visited England in 1851, he was received by
the whole trade as a person of rare quality, as indeed
Mr John Hart took him to see Mr Goding's unique
collection. As one by one the owner took his treasures
out of a glass cabinet, before ever he had got within
two paces of Tarisio, he was amazed at hearing their
names called out. A glance was sufficient. Tarisio had
VIOLIN TARISIO 179
had them all through his hands the "King" Guar-
nerius, Lafont's Guarnerius, the matchless Bergonzi,
the Marquis de la Kosa's Amati, Ole Bull's Guarnerius,
the famous Serafino 'cello, called the Beauty all of
which might never have reached Mr Goding had it
not been for the enterprise and indomitable energy of
the Italian carpenter who now stood before him.
Barring a narrow circle of dealers, it may seem
strange that so remarkable a man should not have
been more widely known and esteemed during his life-
time; but we can well understand that the restricted
circle of dealers amongst whom he moved, did not
find it to their interest to place their special Cremona
" pocket " within reach of the wealthy amateurs out of
whom they themselves were busy making their market.
Tarisio, had he been dealer first and enthusiast
second, might have done better financially ; but he did
not do badly, and he wanted little except the privilege
of handling Cremonas to the end of his life and dying
in their good company.
He did both. Although there was a strain of geni-
ality about Tarisio, he never seemed to unbend except
in the company of fellow-enthusiasts ; and as he was
too cautious to give himself away to Italians, from
whom he was gradually securing the spoils which
built up his fortune, fame, and immortality, the
only people who really knew Tarisio were the few
foreigners like Vuillaume, the Chanots in France,
John Hart the dealer and Charles Reade the novelist
180 OLD VIOLINS
In his own land he remained to the end nothing but
the quiet, unobtrusive repairer and occasional dealer in
It seems he had removed to Milan, where he was
quite safely hidden, along with his fiddles, up in an
attic at the top of a second-class restaurant in the Via
Legnano Porta Tegnaglia.
No one was ever allowed to enter his room. H>
locked himself in, and he locked himself out. They
saw him going up and down the staircase, and that is
all they saw of him.
One day in 1854 Tarisio dragged himself up those
stairs for the last time. Whether he had any pre-
monition of his end, none may know certainly no one
was with him when he died -only it was noticed that
he locked himself in, but came out no more; nor
had he gone down to the restaurant for any of the
necessaries of life.
At last the neighbours thought it time to ascertain
what was taking place in that mysterious attic. They
seemed to have watched his strange movements closely,
but their efforts to find out who he was and how he lived
had been hitherto fruitless, as he made a point of carry-
ing on his particular and nomadic business at a distance
from his abode. They were not going to be baulked
any longer, so they knocked, but there was no answer.
At last they broke open the door, and a strange and
piteous sight burst upon them. There, on a squalid
couch, lay the pedlar, quite dead.
Around him all seemed chaos piles of fiddle-boxes,
VIOLIN TARISIO 181
fiddles in and out of cases, tenors, 'cellos, violins in
pieces and violins whole. Half a dozen Strads there;
a Gasparo (afterwards Mr Bennett's), a Euggieri (Mr
T. E. Bradson's); about a hundred Italian fiddles, by
Here, too, was found the " Messie " or " Messiah."
These trophies created little enthusiasm at the time,
\>ut to the joy of the relatives, two nephews, who had
been hunted up with difficulty by the municipal autho-
rities, a sealed packet was found containing valuable
securities and a considerable amount of gold.
The rest is matter of common history.
The instant his friend and patron Vuillaume heard
of the magician's death he hurried to Milan, and visited
the nephews at their farmhouse.
" Where are the fiddles ? "
" At Milan ; but we have six here."
On the spot Vuillaume opened the cases. The first
contained a splendid Strad, the second a Joseph del
Gesu, the third a Carlo Bergonzi, the fourth and fifth
two Guaclagninis, and the last the famous Messiah,
preserved by Count Cozio de Salabue, intact until
1824, when it was bought by Tarisio.
Vuillaume came to terms with the nephews for these
six, and then lost not a moment in visiting the famous
attic at Milan, where he found 246 more, which he
bought at once for 3166, leaving the astonished heirs
no doubt laughing in their sleeves, under the impression
that the gobe-mouche of a, Frenchman had been nicely
hi-diddle-diddled by the wily Italians,
182 OLD VIOLINS
When we remember that a couple only of these gems
would realise now more than the sum Vuillaume paid
for the lot, we may well remember the proverb, " He
laughs best who laughs last."
A VIGNETTE OF PAGANINI.
I have, advisedly steered clear in this collector's
volume of violin-players and violin-music, excepting
in so far as they acted or reacted in any way upon the
violin and its progress towards perfection. From this
point of view, the growth of music appears to be re-
sponsible for the definition and survival (as the fittest)
of the violin, violoncello, and double bass ; and virtuo-
sity is certainly responsible for the lengthening of the
violin-neck and finger-board, the strengthening of the
sound-bar to resist an increased string-tension, and
the lengthening of the bow. But virtuosity can claim
nothing more than these trifling details. The Strad
pattern of 1684 to 1700 has remained completely
unaffected by the feats, vagaries, or demands of
In this the grand pattern violin stands out in sharp
and singular contrast to the old grand pianoforte. The
imperious demands of Liszt and Thalberg, Eubinstein
and his followers, have compelled a series of improve-
ments in strength, sonority, delicate mechanism, and
sensibility, undreamed of by the old firms, and only
perfected by the later Erards, Broadwoods, Collards,
and S Loin way s. But not a single substantial improve-
PLATE XI (to face page
Portraits of Paganini abound. Landseer sketched
a series, which, however, are slightly of the nature of
caricatures. It was difficult to do otherwise. The
Maestro's features were so marked, his long hair so
weird, the tall forehead, the wide sensitive mouth, the
dark eyes, the ungainly and gaunt, almost dislocated
attitudes of the man lent themselves freely to a lively
and not always sympathetic or respectful pencil. The
portrait, a rare ore, here produced, hits the happy
mean. The finest representation of him is, however,
Danton's small bust (admirably reproduced by Mrs
Haweis' pencil in " My Musical Life," where see my
biographical study of Paganini).
VIOLIN TARISIO 183
mem has been made in the violin since the last one left
the hand of the great Antonio at Cremona, and not
even a trifling modification of any sort has been adopted
or applied to the grand violin of the golden period for
at least a century. The excuse then for introducing
the name and portrait of Paganini into this book is
not because he reacted in the least degree upon the
art of violin-making, but because he accepted it as an
absolutely finished art, and asked for nothing which
he found not in Strad and Joseph.
Now this is important and interesting, because
Paganini was the greatest of all players in this cul-
minating century of the musical art a man admittedly
unsurpassed in the opinion of violin experts like John
Ella, Cipriani Potter, Onry, and others, who, for forty
years after his death, listened to all the phenomenal
violinists of an age which boasts of Ernst, Joachim,
Wieinawski, and Sarasate and Ysaye. As it has not
been possible to produce the face and figure of any of
these great old makers, with the one exception of Lupot,
who belongs at best to the silver age, I have thought
it worth while to glorify their work by reproducing the
grand though eccentric face and figure of the one man
who has invested their chef-d'ceuvres with that romantic
glamour, that almost unearthly prestige which the violin
alone amongst instruments can lay claim to.
Paganini's favourite violin, a Joseph Guarnerius, lies
in its case under glass to this hour, open for all eyes
to inspect, in the Town Hall at Genoa, his native town,
to which he has bequeathed it. His dying directions,
184 OLD VIOLINS
that nc one should ever play upon it, recall Shake-
speare's curse upon those who should move his bones.
The great musician's orders have not been quite so
scrupulously observed as those of the immortal bard
of Avon. In "My Musical Life" will be found my
"Homage a Paganini," together with a woodcut of
Dan ton's very fine bust, given to me by John Ella,
who played in the orchestra among the violins when
first Paganini visited England.
Nothing is so ephemeral as the fame of an orator,
actor, or musician, unless they leave books or music
behind them. Henceforth the phonograph may do
something to give future generations some idea of the
fascination which lived and died with them; but no
phonograph will ever give us even a faint echo of
Siddons' declamation or Paganini's playing; these are
alike buried with the generation which they charmed
and electrified. But in Leigh Hunt's description of
Paganini's performance we have something like a pic-
torial phonograph, if I may hazard the hibernianism, of
the " Pale Musician's " mighty personality and power.
Somewhere between the forties and fifties, I remember,
as a very young boy, standing awestruck before a thin,
gaunt, dislocated wax effigy of Paganini in an ill-fitting
dresscoat, with wild dreamy eyes and arm uplifted high
just as Leigh Hunt describes him before his bow
came down like a crash of thunder on the strings ; but
let the lively and graphic essayist who heard him, speak
for himself :
" Paganini, the first time I saw and heard him, and the
VIOLIN TARISIO 185
first time he struck a note, seemed literally to strike it, to
give it a blow. The house was so crammed that, being
among the squeezers in the standing-room at the side of
the pit, I happened to catch the first glance of his face,
through the arm akimbo of a man who was perched up
before me, which made a kind of frame for it; and
there, on the stage in that frame, as through a per-
spective glass, were the face bent and the raised hand
of the wonderful musician, with the instrument at his
chin, just going to commence, and looking exactly
as I described htm
' His hand,
Loading the air with dumb expectancy,
Suspending ere it fell a nation's breath,
He smote, and clinging to the serious chordftj
With godlike ravishment drew forth a breath
So deep, so strong, so fervid thick with love,
Blissful yet laden as with twenty prayers,
That Juno yearned with no diviner soul
To the first burthen of the lips of Jove.
Th' exceeding mystery of the loveliness
Sadden'd delight, and With his mournful look
Dreary and gaunt, hanging his pallid face
Twixt his dark flowing locks, he almost seem d
Too feeble, or to melancholy eyes
One that has parted with his soul for pride.
And in the sable secret lived forlorn.*
To show the depth and identicalness of the impression
which he made upon everybody, foreign or native, an
Italian, .who stood near me, said to himself after a sigh,
' Dio ! ' and this had not been said long when another
person in the same manner exclaimed, '0 Christ!'
Musicians pressed forward from behind the scenes to
get as close to him as possible, and they could not
sleep at night for thinking of him."
TIOLINb AT MIRECOURT, MITTENWALC^.
MIRECOURT in Lorraine has the glory of being associ-
ated from so early a date as 1566 with the Cremona
Andrew Amati, who made six small fiddles for
Charles IX. about that time, employed Nicolas Een-
auld of Nancy, who was a pupil of the celebrated
Mirecourt lutist Tywersus, to assist him in finishing
these important court orders, which did so much to
establish the supremacy of the "petit violon" over
the crowd of competing viols which then held the
popular ear, and, as we have seen, died very hard.
The great princes of Lorraine occupied a castle of
pleasure called Kavenel, at a short distance from
These accomplished noblemen, touched with Floren-
tine culture, often made excursions into Lombardy,
and delighted in the refinements of the Italian prince-
doms and duchies.
They brought back with them pictures, ironwork,
laces, musical instruments.
VIOLINS AT MIRECOURT 187
Tywersus, their private lute-maker, was deeply in-
fluenced by the work and models of the early Amatis,
and from the school of Tywersus came Nicolas Ren-
auld, Jean Medard, and Nicolas Medard. When
Amati left Paris, whither he had gone to present his
violins in person to Charles IX., he left behind him
Nicolas Eenaulcl, who slipped into the lucrative post
of luthier to his French Majesty, and we find his
friend and co-worker Medard installed in the same
fat office under the Grand Monarque, Louis XIV.,
who, with his expensive mistresses, certainly spared no
money or patronage to secure those who could in any
way minister to the extravagant court pomp and artistic
amusements of the Pompadour and the Petit Trianon.
Meanwhile Mirecourt, in the heart of the Vosges
mountains, with easy access to the grand timbers of
their ancient forests, within beck and call of Lombardy,
and in close touch with the great Italian fiddle-
makers, Mirecourt long held supremacy as one of, if
not the most important mart of fiddle manufacture.
It shared with Mittenwald and Markneukirchen
the honour of supplying that rapidly growing violin
market which was now springing up, and whilst
Cremona made largely for home consumption and a
few foreign courts, Mirecourt undertook the more
modest but equally useful duty of multiplying Cremona
school violins, which circulated far and wide throughout
the French provinces, and frequently reached our own
shores ; indeed the fiddles often passed for Cremonae.
The popularity of these Cromona replicas brought
183 OLD VIOLINS
on that inevitable deterioration in quality which always
follows over-rapid production and cheap wares, and
at one time Mirecourt, in spite of its elaborate in-
dustry, was fast becoming a byword for bad fiddles.
Happily the danger was seen and speedily checked, and
Mirecourt now stands out as perhaps the greatest and
most excellent emporium of modern violin manufacture.
All who wish to know what can be known, go to Mire-
court, just as people who study art go to Eome and
Florence, or people who study the fashions go to Paris.
To Mirecourt we owe Eambaux, who was born there
in 1802 and died there only in 1870.
Francis and George Chanot both came from there.
The Lupot family are claimed as natives of Mire-
court, although the greatest of them, Nicolas, whose
violins run some of the finest specimens of Cremona
very hard, was a native of Stuttgard. His father was
a Frenchman, and came from Mirecourt. All his tradi-
tions belong to Mirecourt, and these, as we all know,
he carried with him to Paris, where he died in 1824,
and was succeeded by Gand.
The names of Maucotel, Medard, Menegand, Sil-
vestre, and Deragay, and above all Vuillaume, must
always shed an imperishable lustre upon the little town
in the Vosges mountains.
Every one of the Vuillaumes, eight in number, in-
cluding the immortal Jean Baptiste, were born at
Mirecourt. Two settled at Brussels, three at Paris,
but all the others lived and died at Mirecourt.
William Ebs worth Hill was careful to send his sons
VIOLINS AT MIRECOURT 189
to this celebrated school of violin art, and we may
be sure that they did not come away until they had
possessed themselves of everything that Mirecourt had
to teach the violin maker or the connoisseur.
M. Thibouville Lamy of Mirecourt, who has trade
branches in Paris and London, manufactures a violin
at about 3s. lOd. cost price, selling at about 4s. 6d. ;
but Markneukirchen probably leads in cheapness and
quantity, if not quality, turning out quite playable
fiddles for the modest figure of 1 to 2, 10s.
The best Mirecourt fiddles will fetch from 6 to 10.
The Gand and Bernardel prices range from 16 to
The ever-increasing demands for " trade fiddles " of
all kinds, as distinguished from the solo violins reserved
for the use of virtuosi, has called forth an abundance
of fair makers beyond the limits of Mirecourt, Mitten-
wald, and Markneukirchen.
In England it is enough to mention such names as
Hill & Sons ; Duncan of Glasgow ; the Chanots, London
and Manchester; the late Furber, London; in Paris,
Bernardel, Silvestre, Germain, Audinot, and Chardon;
in Vienna, Zach, Bittner, Lembok, Voigt, Guttermann,
Kampfler; in Munich, Sprenger; in Frankfort-on-
Maine, Lenk; in Breslau, Liebich; in Brussels, Darche;
in Lille, Hel ; in Milan, Marchetti ; in Turin, Bros.
Guadagnini ; in Cremona, Ceruti ; and for further
general information the reader may consult the toler-
ably exhaustive catalogue index of makers at the end
of this volume, for the bulk of which I am indebted
190 OLD VIOLINS
to the studious and admirable labours of Miss Stainer.
Her booklet is entitled " Violin Makers," and it forms
one of the music primers of an educational series
issued by Novello & Co.
In old days Mittenwald, quaintest of Bavarian
towns, with its frescoed houses and its picturesque
river-side, for it is on the banks of the dear Isar, over-
shadowed by the Wetterstein and Kurwandel mountains,
was a town of considerable importance from very early
days as the halting-place for the Romans on their way
to the Danube.
It long retained its peculiar caravanserai character,
which resulted in the establishment of the handy mart
or Mittenwald fair, for which in more recent times the
place was chiefly famous. After the removal of the
fair to Bozen, the importance of Mittenwald began to
decline ; trade and commerce suddenly seemed to have
made unto themselves wings, until one Matthias Klotz,
who in his boyhood is said to have been apprenticed
to no less a person than the great Nicolas Amati,
settled at Mittenwald, and wrote up outside his house :
"Matthias Klotz, Geigen Macher, im jahr 1684." The
prime hazel and maple, to be found in the Wetterstein
hills, is of splendid quality, and the woods, then close
up to the town, were full of old trees.
Thither, before the days of Matthias, was wont to
come a dreamy, ill-regulated sort of person, who excited
VIOLINS AT MITTENWALD 191
the curiosity, and perhaps ridicule, of the villagers by
tapping their trees with a hammer and then putting
his ear close to the wood to hear the sound.
They thought he was mad, and he did go mad from
worry and want, but the sanest thing he ever did was
to tap those trees and listen to the sound.
His name was Jacob Stainer.
Matthias Klotz was only nineteen when he came to
Mitten wald, but by this time the Mitten walders, who
had heard how the eccentric tramp with the hammer
had gone back to Absam and made the place famous
by his fiddles, were prepared to receive the young
workman with favour and hospitality, for they hoped
he might do something of the kind for Mittenwald.
They were not mistaken. One year before Klotz
arrived at Mittenwald, Stainer had died incoherent
and insane at Absam, and now that the greatest of
German makers was dead, Mittenwald was soon des-
tined to become noted in its turn for its fiddles.
It is generally affirmed that Klotz was a pupil of
Stainer. Certainly his relations with Nicolas Amati
are not very well defined. The probabilities are that
he was a pupil of both in the sense of being familiar
with their work. The fact that his violins are some-
times mistaken for Stainer, points to the strong Absam
influence which was upon him it could hardly be
otherwise whilst the tendency noticeable in the fiddles
of his son Sebastian, who certainly did visit Cremona,
to bring down the model flatter than was fashionable
at this time, indicates that the firm at all events
192 OLD VIOLINS
reflected the later Amati model of Nicolas, who died
the very year Klotz came to Mittenwald.
Had Matthias or Sebastian Klotz attended to the
methods either of Stainer or Amati more carefully,
they would have observed that wood cut in spring with
the sap in it was not calculated to last like the drier
autumn timber. Whether from haste or ignorance,
the Klotz wood, especially that used by Matthias and
Sebastian, is sometimes found to be worm-eaten, but
Sebastian's fiddles are much esteemed. His brothers,
George and Egidius, and his nephew, Joseph, son of
Egidius, all made fiddles of the same type varnish
running from yellow to brown, and laid on rather
more lavishly than was the habit of Matthias, founder
of the firm.
The Mittenwald industry, although now less prolific
than that of Markneukirchen, preceded it in point of
time, and undoubtedly it was through Bavarian Mitten-
wald that the Cremona influence reached Saxony.
Master Reiter, whose teacher was Johan Vauchel of
Wurzburg, is now the most prominent Mittenwald
maker, and Herr Neuner, who was a pupil of Vuillaume,
directs the school and factory. The school instructs
about twenty boys, and is under Government.
Out of eighteen hundred Mittenwalders, three hun-
dred are fiddle-makers.
The place provides from fifteen to twenty thousand
instruments per annum, including zithers and guitars.
I will not say that Herr Reiter, who is an artist versed
in the old secrets and the old enthusiasms, is personally
VIOLINS AT MARKNEUKIRCHEN 193
responsible for the " trade fiddles " that annually pour
from the Mittenwald workshops. He himself has
made comparatively few fiddles, but he supervises
them all, and remarked to a visitor the other day,
" I, Master Keiter, never let one go out of my hands
that has not been thoroughly tested, and I have sent
out into the world, to Eussia, to America, Athens,
and where not, some two hundred violins and twenty-
five 'cellos, besides having repaired some four hundred
Quiet resting-places, secluded valleys of the Tyrol,
mountains of Saxony! Mittenwald, Markneukirchen,
Mirecourt ; sleepy Italian towns ! Brescia, Cremona,
once provincial villages like Mirecourt, far from the stir
of mighty cities ! such retreats seem to have been ever
favourable to the development of violin manufacture.
Something, too, of simple and almost naive religious
sentiment has entered into the production of the earlier
violins, most of which were, after all, chiefly intended
for the sanctuary, Catholic or Protestant.
The arts and craftsbook of the Worshipful Guild
of Violin -makers of Markneukirchen, 1677 to 1772, has
lately been unearthed and translated by the many-
sided and indefatigable Heron Allen, and it throws a
kind of sudden flashlight upon the origin of an indus-
trial centre which has since become one of the most
famous emporiums of violins "made in Germany."
194 OLD VIOLINS
Here we read how a mere handful of masters and
workmen went out from kith and kin into a wilderness
some would say a paradise for the sake of worship-
ping God in their own way that is to say, the new
reformed Lutheran way. They settled, to the number
of sixty-six, ahout the year 1627, at the retired and
mountainous village of Markneukirchen. The old
book which records their uneventful annals begins
characteristically enough with, "In the name of the
Holy Trinity, Amen " ; and then follow the names of
twelve families, the principals being Beicher, Hans
George, Polles, Gaspar, Schonfeldes, and Gaspar Hopf ;
and from this modest nucleus, emigrants, chiefly from
Graslitz, grew the famous Guild, which by-and-by was
responsible for scattering abroad violins innumerable,
labelled with every known name, and of quality good,
bad, and indifferent ; for it is a notable peculiarity of
the Markneukirchen makers that, whilst they were
compelled by the rules of the Guild to produce diploma
instruments and others of recognised quality, the cost
of production has got down as low as about four shil-
lings, and a very playable instrument, labelled Stradi-
vari, is actually sold for a sum not much above that
astonishing cost price.
Many of these workers were all-round men, and did
not confine themselves to fiddle-making. Thus, Carl
Frederick Jacob was carpenter, locksmith, and general
instrument maker; one Andrea Gher, 1587, was a
schoolmaster; whilst Gasper Reichel was a barber.
Gottfried Pitz was admitted to the Guild on easy
VIOLINS AT MARKNEUKIRCHEN 195
terms, because he had served his country as a cavalry
The master-workers were mostly people of some sub-
stance. They had to pay a tax of one florin on being
admitted to mastership ; but sons of a master were
admitted on a reduced fee of five florins.
Most of the masters were expected to have a decent
house, with a room large enough to entertain the Guild
with their wives at a banquet on their installation.
As this cost some money there were various ways of
lightening the burden when the candidate happened to
be a desirable addition to the Guild he was allowed
to pay in instalments, or part was remitted by favour.
A popular means of effecting economy was to propose
to marry the daughter of a master ; that at least staved
off payment. The apprentices often got in cheap that
Hans Adam Narlitzer, who "intended" to marry a
master's daughter, was admitted on reduced terms, on
the understanding that, if the match did not come off,
he was to pay up in full.
One Kretchman also "intended" to marry the
youngest daughter of Hans Martin Schonf eldes ; also
Johann Christian Envel, in 1761, had "half a mind"
to marry the youngest daughter of Keichel, and was
admitted for ten thalers; but in case he could not
make up his mind to marry the girl, or any other
master's daughter, he would have to pay thirty-one
thalers. In no case is it recorded that any of these
gentlemen failed to marry as per contract ; the masters'
196 OLD VIOLINS
daughters probably took very good care of that, or
would have sufficient influence to suppress the fact of
With the spread of the Reformed opinions, there at
first arose a certain demand for violins in the new
churches; but the rigid Lutherans soon smelled the
odour of abuse and reversion to Romanism, and dis-
couraged any approach to ornate services, or an over-
supply of instrumental accompaniment. A decree that
the violins used in Church should be reduced in num-
bers naturally spread consternation throughout the
little country town ; but the growing demand for
etringed instruments of good quality for secular bands
soon counteracted the effect of sectarian bigotry and
clerical parsimony; and when one Joseph Haydn,
bandmaster to Prince Esterhazy in Vienna, practically
founded the modern orchestra with its symphony, and
created the modern oratorio and quartet, the demand
for violins and basses led to a prodigious develop-
ment of the Markneukirchen industry; and as the
masters not only had ready access to the best Cremo-
nese models, but were surrounded by some of the finest
maple timber in the world, felled in forests full of seasoned
trees hundreds of years old, the fame of the Markneu-
kirchen makers soon spread throughout Europe.
At Mittenwald a similar community flourished, and
the crop of German instruments made, and still made,
by these enterprising artificers have flooded all the
orchestras of the world, providing them with samples
of every maker, from Gaspar and Maggini to Stradi-
VIOLINS AT MARKNEUKIRCHEN 197
vari, the Guarneri, Bergonzi, and Guadagniui. The
Mittenwald makers owed their inspiration chiefly to
Egidius Klotz, pupil of the great Stainer. They were
as famous for their fine hazel-fir timber as the Markneu-
kircheners were for their maple: it was also through
the Mittenwaldera that the Crenioiia methods filtered
readily into the more northern region Markneu-
kirchen, Prague, Nuremburg, Wurzburg, and Franken.
The increased demand for instruments resulted
necessarily in a tendency to deterioration, which did
not escape the attention of the Guild, and rigid rules
were drawn up, called "Beneficent Mandates for the
Suppression of Abuses."
Every master had to prove himself equal to produc-
ing one masterpiece as a sample of his skill, though it
was freely admitted that a cheap demand involved a
cheap type of instrument, which could not be expected
to rival the diploma standard of tone and finish.
The quaint record of the Markneukirchen arts and
craftsbook ends with the year 1772, and with the words
"Deo Gloria" Since that date the names of Eeichel,
Schuster, and Paulus have all been en evidence at vari-
ous European Exhibitions as medallists and exhibitors
of distinction; but, after a great fire in 1840, a good
many families left the town, and thus the old centre
became like a flower that had overblown itself, and
began to obey the inevitable law by which a mature
centre distributes itself gradually, losing as it were its
own central wealth in its circumference, as the seeds of
the dandelion get blown abroad over all lands.
notion that the more a fiddle is knocked about
the better it is, is similar to the theory that the more
you knock about a horse the better he goes.
A good horse will take a great deal of spoiling, and
so will a good fiddle. Your well-bred beast, even
when broken down, if you turn him out to grass and
attend to his ailments, will recover marvellously, and
so will a violin, if you glue him up, readjust his nervous
system, keep him dry, and coax him a bit.
The delusion that a fiddle is all the better for being
maltreated is due to this : Many people observe that
their old, battered, disorganised fiddles, which went
into the skilful repairer's hands sounding like tin
kettles, come out with the true Cremona timbre ; but
that, my deluded friend, is not in consequence, but in
spite of the knocking about to which your favourites
have been exposed.
The fiddle-doctor has attended to your violin's
internal economy, and gently healed its bruises, killed
the wolf or fiddle stomach-ache from which it was
suffering, glued tight the rattling back, ribs, belly, fixed
the loose sound-bar, and readjusted your Cremona's
VIOLIN TREATMENT 199
very soul (I'dme du molori), which is the sound-post
and so it fares well ; but remember, 'tis better to keep
a fiddle in repair and use than allow it to get out of
both, and go a mere wreck to the workshop.
I am not forgetting, when I say "use," that the in-
cessant and continued playing upon an instrument is
said to result in its getting what Joachim calls " played
out," and that collectors have been great benefactors
by withdrawing choice instruments from wear and tear,
giving them thus long periods of suspended animation ;
but, as a general rule, so long as a violin lasts and
how long it will last is still a vexed question fair
wear and tear and attention is just as good for a fiddle
as work, exercise, and cleanly habits are good for man
Neglect is never good ; knocking about is never good !
Lay it to your heart, young player !
What is that precious thing committed to your
care? You have brought it home from the auction-
room your Amati. There was a conspiracy to keep
down the bidding. An influential dealer wanted to
buy it cheap, having already half sold it in advance
for twice as much as he meant to give; he went up
to 40 at the auction and stopped, but you were the
dark horse and made another bid; he winked at the
auctioneer, supposing it to be a bogus bid; the man
with the hammer paused and looked at the dealer, who
shook his head; for once the dealer had been too
clever and lost his Arnati for a 5 nota It wa,s
knocked down to you,
200 OLD VIOLINS
You get it home; there is something wrong about
it; the timbre of the A string is unequal sweet, but
too weak it has a crack in one rib.
You don't expect a trumpet-sound like that of a
Joseph, or quite the bell-like ring of a Strad, but you
do mean to have a quality like the ripple of water
a round, soft, and incomparably sensitive and intime
tone, not to be surpassed by Strad and never reached
Of course your early Nicolo has got to be over-
hauled. He has got a crack perhaps more than one.
Why, he is already more than two hundred years old,
and may have a mark of the young Stradivari's chisel
about him. Of what attention is he not worthy!
Take him to a subtle violin medicine-man, who will at
a glance see what he has got to deal with, and will sit
down before him and think !
He will then take him up, handle him, tap him, pull
him to pieces with excessive care and reflection. When
you get him back, you may still be not quite satisfied,
but wait. Your treatment has to begin where the
The convalescent home comes after the hospital
your house is the convalescent home.
The glue must dry; the changed sound-post must
grow to the newly-directed strain and tension of the
vibrating boards ; the refixed flanks must learn to deal
with the air column, and the filled-up crack, by con-
stantly thrilling with the rest, must have time to forget
that it ever was a crack !
VIOLIN TREATMENT 201
Be not impatient. Play upon it gently at first, and
by-and-by draw out its tone; lay it aside and watch
that no harm comes to it ; let it lie open, with a soft
silken wrapper on the strings near, not too near the
fire ; it must not get hot, but, like good claret, just the
temperature of a comfortably warm room.
Think of it in winter as you would think of your
pet canary; don't let it get chilled at night; let it be
in your own bedroom, or wherever there is an atmos-
phere and temperature fit for a well-cared-for " human."
'Tis half human ; 'tis caressed by your hand ; it lies
close to your cheek ; 'tis breathed on by you when you
press it, in moments of rare inspiration and musical
trance, between your chin and your left breast, where
its vibrating back actually feds the pulses of your own
heart. The waves of sound that you generate from it
are saturated with the magnetism of your touch ; the
trembling pressure of your fingers comes from the
shaking of your own life-blood as it beats in the
mysterious valves of the heart, and seems to mingle
with those more than atmospheric, those psychic waves
which travel out upon the air in a flow of magic sound
conveying your inmost self to the inmost selves of
So this half-human thing must live with you and be
cared for by and fare with you, and be kept in good
See that no clot of dirt be in its case, no speck of
rosin to vex and fret the smooth amber-coloured back.
Take it out lovingly ; polish it with soft handkerchief j
202 OLD VIOLINS
keep it shining wherever the varnish still shows up,
and scrupulously clean elsewhere.
The vile notion that a coat of rosin does good, and
may be left with advantage like a festering mass on
the belly underneath the strings, is a most grievous
Why suffer the corrosion of the varnish with a foreign
substance to remain there more than on any other
part of the wood?
Eosin is for the strings, not for the belly, and the
strings are for friction, and are intended to be scraped
through and worn out and replaced, but the belly is
for vibration and is never intended to wear out.
Your rosin is life to the strings, enabling them to
speak, but 'tis death to the wood, stifling its pores and
striking it dumb ! ,.-
Never touch your violin with oil, or spirit, or colour-
ing. Only a skilled repairer can venture to do that,
and even he will not always be wise.
I have seen really good old instruments too much
cleaned or daubed over ruthlessly with muddy brown
varnish, much, as Euskin says, he saw men with knives
and mops of paint at Venice scraping away and splash-
ing over with raw blue the vast old faded skies of
Paul Veronese !
A spick and span mania seizes at times upon re-
storers of all schools.
A relative of mine had a Spagnoletti restored to him
by a cleaner, but so repainted as to be worthless.
Have not half the cathedrals in the Ian4 been dis-
VIOLIN TREATMENT 203
by whitewash, starched and bleached just like
so much dirty linen, and the old frescoes obliterated
like so many disfiguring stains ; and even now, in these
more enlightened days, how many old carvings have
been replaced by modern routine -work sculpture,
whilst the walls, facade, and floor of grand old St
Mark's at Venice have been smeared over with Sal-
viati's modern mosaic. Thus have I seen a Maggini
botched and browned over so completely with bad
German varnish as to leave only faint traces here and
there of the original coating.
Never in the matter of varnish dare to replace
what time has stolen; that loss of old varnish is a
tribute paid not ungrudgingly to " the Vandal years,"
who have spared the life and been unable materially
to injure the fabric of the rare old instrument. Above
all, thou favoured guardian of a Cremona, never let
it get near damp, or suffer from any other mouldering
or corrosive influence.
A friend of mine, finding that the worm had got
into his violin case, which contained a Guadagnini,
proceeded to saturate his case with benzoin, and before
it was properly dry replaced the precious instrument,
with the result that the old varnish was brought up
in blisters all over the back, which is now one crinkled
mass, as rough to the touch as a nutmeg-grater. The
varnish was completely ruined, and what is worse, the
violin has never sounded like itself since ; a clear proof
to my mind that the varnish affects the tone, or at
least that damaged varnish impairs ik
204 OLD VIOLINS
It is not at all an uncommon thing to find a violin,
which has been left unplayed upon for gome months,
sulky ,when first taken out.
Do not be rash or fidget with the bridge or sound-
post. Warm the fiddle up gently ; rub it lightly with
all due care, and play on it without taking any notice
of its temper; go on for a couple of hours; you will
find, to your surprise, that it has recovered all its own
sweetness and charm, and will be ready to charm you
with the delightful sensitiveness of its response. All
that was really wanted was for the temporarily disused
channels of vibration to be again filled with sound
the pores the desiccated hollows to be once more
shaken up in the old way. The instrument has really
gone to sleep some of its nerve currents have got
sluggish that is, the desiccated powder -molecules have
stuck in the pores and must be set rolling again. But,
like one just awakened, the fiddle takes a little time
to be " all there," as the idiom runs.
Something similar may be observed in a large hall.
When, after the atmosphere has been quiescent for
some time, speaking first begins, the speaker will not
be heard well ; the atmosphere is stiff, and only when
the whole of it has been set in vibration and that
takes a little time does it become sensitive and
sufficiently elastic to be capable of transmitting the
slightest inflections of sound.
There is, again, an electric as well as an atmospheric
and molecular state of the air and all other vibratory
substances, but this is a side of acoustics extremely
VIOLIN TREATMENT 205
little understood, and can only be dealt; with empiri-
cally by speakers, singers, players, and especially
handlers of violins, who will instinctively make use of
some laws which they do not understand, and which
indeed do not yet seem to have been correctly
I feel that something ought to be said about the
position of the sound-post, though frankly I would
rather not say anything.
Whatever advice one gives is certain to be wrongly
and mischievously applied.
Technically, the sound-post should be a little behind
the right foot of the bridge, if you look from head to
neck, which is of course the left foot if you look from
neck to head. It ought also to be straight if it is
aslant unless the surface of the ends be cut on a slope.
Of course it clings but partially to back and belly,
whose throbs it is intended to blend ; a little too near
the bridge will often produce a light hard tone; a
little too far will tend to a loose, muffled, or tubby
quality; a little to the right will brighten the right
string at the expense of the left, and vice versd. Get
it exactly in the fit place, and you attain the utmost
sensibility and equal sonority of which your violin is
capable. But so capricious are the vibrational laws,
and so subtle are the peculiarities of each violin's
nervous system, that the position which at first has
failed to yield good results will ultimately be found
to have won its way to the heart of your violin, the
instrument adjusting itself to what waa at first an
206 OLD VIOLINS
uncongenial treatment of its nerves, until the nerves
learn to sympathise, and even rejoice, in special direc-
tions of pressure and tension induced by the sound-
post. When this happens, better let well alone and
don't attend to outside advice of experts.
It is seldom wise to encourage an amateur, or any
but a skilful hand, to trifle with the position of the
sound-post. If it must be moved or has fallen down,
why then by all means take the advice of an expert;
go to the doctor.
The same sort of advice may be given about the
position of the bridge. Granted that you have a
bridge which suits your instrument (and the importance
of this I have elsewhere dwelt upon), then consider
whether 'tis worth while to move your bridge at all.
The two little side slits in the // indicate approxi-
mately the position of the bridge; let a violin-doctor
determine the right height, which, remember, must be
modified according to its position, and the slope and
elevation of the finger-board. But here again there is
a vague and subtle margin for readjustment; the im-
portance of the bridge's position is of course directly
related to the whereabouts of the sound-post, as the
bridge is a prime factor in dealing first with the
vibrations transmitted by the sound-post from belly
There are violins which gain brilliancy by the bridge
leaning a little forward, but this is of course dangerous,
as a little more, and down comes the bridge. The theory
of course is for the feet of the bridge to grip equally at
VIOLIN TREATMENT 207
all points the surface of the belly flat and close, and
with equal pressure. Now, if the bridge leans forward,
the grip of the back part of the feet is slightly lifted,
whilst the pressure of the front part is accentuated, and
if it leans backwards, precisely the reverse takes place.
Yet so capricious are fiddles, that some do not seem
to like to have their bridges quite straight, and so they
have got to be humoured.
Without grave cause I should advise not meddling
with bridge or sound-post after they have been re-
adjusted by a good repairer. He may not have been
quite right; he may not have had the time or patience
to deal with your malade imaginaire of a fiddle for
amongst fiddles as amongst people, there are malades
imaginaires which baffle the profession but your fiddle-
doctor will be probably more right than you fussy,
irritable, discontented, inexperienced amateur, and, if
you leave off tampering with the works, the fiddle will
very probably adjust itself and get all right.
Then of course you must remember that whenever
you touch the bridge you touch the elevation of the
strings above finger-board. Put bridge back, you slacken
the touch for the player by bringing the strings close
down on the finger-board ; put it forward or tilt it, and
you lighten the touch ; make it harder for the fingers
by lifting the strings higher from the finger-board.
And now a word about your finger-board. This is
generally made of ebony ; the old masters used various
brownish woods, choosing, of course, the harder ones,
which they often inlaid beautifully. Sometimes even
208 OLD VIOLINS
they used ivory ; you may perhaps have noticed that
on some violins you have a difficulty in stopping fifths,
or indeed any chords, in tune. This, unless you are a
mere blunderer, comes from the state of your finger-
board. You may not have noticed it, but you will
observe that the strings, by constantly being squeezed
by the fingers against the smoothly-arched surface of
the ebony, have worn channels in the wood, but
channels of unequal depths; the consequence is that
the same pressure, forcing two strings down on un-
equally raised surfaces, fails to produce that relatively
equal pressure necessary for producing your true fifth ;
the string also being sunk, it does not get the full
benefit of the finger's pressure, as the shock of impact
will be broken by the higher level of the finger-board
on either side of the sunken string.
In this way the tone quality as well as the intona-
tion suffers from what so constantly eludes observation
a worn finger-board.
Of course a new finger-board, or the restoration of
an old one, is a very easy matter, and can in no way
affect, except for the better, any violin.
It may safely be said that no violin now in use has
either its original finger-board or, for the matter of
that, its original neck. Strings of very ill-assorted
thickness are also responsible for imperfect fifths.
The management of the pegs sometimes presents
difficulties to the novice. Kosewood, ivory, and box-
wood have been tried, but ebony seems to be the
favourite, though many incline, as I do personally, to
VIOLIN TREATMENT 209
rosewood, which is less dense, and thus, in contact with
the maple-head (which is again less dense in fibre than
the rosewood), offers a less hard and violent contrast
than does the iron ebony to the porous maple.
But the all-essential thing is for the pegs to be nicely
fitted, and it is a vile practice to rosin the pegs to make
them stiffer, or to rub them with lead-pencil or whiten-
ing to make them turn more easily.
If your peg sticks, it is either because it does not fit
the hole, is not smooth, or because you have rammed
it in too far in order to resist the pull of a string, pro-
bably coiled round and round the pegs in a tangled,
There never should be a need for this over-ramming
in of the screw, nor would there be if, when you pulled
up your new string to pitch, you immediately let it
down, drew the stretched part tight, and then screwed
up again, when you would find, instead of ever so many
coils, you had reduced the number to one or two, which
would at once lift the strain from your screw, and make
it needless for you to force it in till it stuck and almost
refused to move at all.
You should be able, when your fiddle is at your chin,
to nip the peghead between the first and third joint of
your forefinger, and adjust the pitch to a nicety and in
a moment ; but then the resistance of the screw must
be so nicely balanced with the tension of the string as
to allow of its moving easily when gripped, and keeping
in its exact place when left.
It is a very strange thing that, whilst all sorts of
210 OLD VIOLINS
mechanical contrivances for moving violin screws have
been suggested, and even tried and adopted for guitars
and double basses, the violin retains its simple and
primitive screw ; nor would any one who lays claim to
a decent position in the trade dream of advising a de-
parture in this, or indeed in any other respect from the
custom of the Cremona school and its successors.
Concerning the stringing of your violin, beyond the
hints I have given with regard to the accumulation of
evils round the peg, there is not very much to be said.
The quality, manufacture, preservation, and price of
strings has already been dealt with; and here, as in
everything connected with violins, there must be tine
and sympathetic adaptation of strings both to the
performer and to his instrument.
A young girl will naturally incline to thinner strings
than a strong man, just as she will usually prefer a
lower bridge, which will reduce the resistance because
of the reduced distance between the strings and the
Some players will prefer a thick first or third string,
according to the quality of tone they are able to elicit;
some a smooth or rather thin patent fourth in pre-
ference to the usual more roughly-coiled and thicker
G string, which, however, is preferable for orchestral
playing ; but, as a rule, buy your strings according to
gauge, if you can't trust your eye, in a good shop, and
you will not be disappointed.
Eemember, as I have previously intimated, that any
great inequality in the relative thickness of your strings
VIOLIN TREATMENT 211
may be quite as much responsible for your imperfect
fifths as an old channelled finger-board. Use plenty
of rosin, and let the string be seasoned with it right
up to the bridge, but not much, if at all, below the
top of the finger-board. The rosin must be well
rubbed in before you attempt solo work, as any excess
of what I may call raw undigested powder will produce
a most vile screeching.
The tone of a fine violinist never reminds you of the
cat-gut and rosin. In the pure disembodied tone of
Piatti, Joachim, or Sarasate we entirely lose the sense
of all beggarly elements ; they have suffered a change
into " something rare and strange."
The rough-and-ready way of testing false strings by
setting them in vibration, holding by each end, and
twitching till the double line is seen, and if a third line
appears condemning the string as false, ia a method
often, not always, reliable. You can never be quite
sure till you have put the string on. If false, you may
get a true length out of it by trying another part ; but,
as a rule, if one length of a string is false, it is bad all
through. A player, especially a soloist, should always
have a length or two of stretched and tested firsts in
his case, or, better still, in his waistcoat pocket, before
he goes on the platform, unless he can ensure the pres-
ence of a second reliable instrument at hand in case of
a sudden breakage.
Strings have every kind of vice short of downright
falseness. You need not put up with wheezy or
dull, or any sort of impure vibration, and beware of
212 OLD VIOLINS
laying the blame on the violin when the string is the
Of course, if the sound-bar or the back or belly of
the violin is loose, or the sound-bar askew, that will
account for a good deal. By tapping all round the
front and the back, just where these join the ribs, you
can easily discover by a certain jar or rattle whether
and where something is loose ; it may be one of the
blocks or linings.
Test the fiddle and you may acquit the strings;
test the strings and you may acquit the fiddle.
You may sometimes experience a difficulty in playing
the A or D string without striking the E or G; this
may be due to your own clumsiness, but it may also be
due to the curve of your bridge being too flat, or some-
one or more of the strings having eaten too deeply into
If your hand perspire much and all hands perspire
your strings, especially your E string, will rag out.
It is difficult to say exactly at what stage in the ragging
process it is advisable to change your string. It is
strange, but true, that the tone of an old ragged string
is not materially impaired. I have sometimes fancied
that such thorough tough and seasoned strings are
even improved in spite of age and infirmity. Certain
it is that the smoothest string will go without warning,
and the raggedest will sometimes hang on down to a
Paganini perspired frightfully, so much so that he
always carried a dry shirt in his violin case, and a gentle-
VIOLIN TREATMENT 213
man noticed that when he opened his case to take out
his violin for a public solo, his strings were in rags.
I have sometimes observed that, oddly enough, a
second or third string is less durable after it has ragged
than a first; the wearing of the threads which compose
the thick strings seems less hard and tight than those
of the thin chanterelle, or the resultant material is
softer and gets soaked and cheesy, and like cheese is
readily cut through by the nails.
Lastly, the amateurish and falsely-assumed econo-
mical habit of slackening all the strings each time the
violin is replaced in its case is a delusion and a snare ;
it only worries your instrument's nervous system.
Slacken your low, not your strings.
The violin gets accustomed to the normal strain, and
adjusts itself to it, and resents being deprived of its
due tension as much as an athlete would resent his
dumb-bells being removed.
The strings are quite as likely to break by being
constantly fidgeted up and down, and the violin is
much more likely to get demoralised by the wearing
action and reaction of a varying strain, than if you
let it alone with all its strings at their accustomed
VIOLIN DEALERS, COLLECTOKS, ARI>
I HAVE come to the conclusion, " after long years," that
there are three things about which your averagely
honest man has no conscience whatever the first is a
horse, the second is an umbrella, and the last, but not
least, is a fiddle.
He will buy from some needy ignoramus a fiddle
worth 100 for a 5' note, if he can. He will sell a
fiddle which cost him 5 for 100, if he can. Truly,
the caveat emptor of the ancient Romans covers a
multitude of sins.
On the other hand, the extreme ignorance of many
persons who have violins to sell offers singular tempta-
tions to dealers, who are a class of people constitu-
tionally on the make.
In bygone days, people who did not play the violin
used to be criminally careless about the instruments
that happened to be in their possession. Cremonas
might lie for years in damp attics, or hung up in dis-
used cupboards on rusty nails, or away in the dust of
ages on the top of old beds and cabinets. Even if the
fiddle was ultimately stolen borrowed and not re-
VIOLIN DEALERS AND AMATEURS 215
turned it was thought hardly worth a serious inquiry ;
it "was all to pieces" or "only an old fiddle"; and,
indeed, I have before now seen such with the belly off
converted into serviceable dustpans.
Credulity has succeeded to ignorance, and now any
one who has any sort of shabby-looking fiddle fancies
he has got a rare Cremona !
He will advertise it unblushingly in the halfpenny
papers, bring it gravely to supposed judges, and make
a favour of even showing it to a dealer.
Nothing will shake the confidence of these simple
folk in their spurious wares; they wfll bring out a
common brown German dated Maggini, and you point
out that Maggini never dated his instruments; they
suppose you to be envious. Or they show you a Stainer
rashly dated fifty years after that maker's death (such
an one was lately brought to me), with a label so recent
that you wonder at the brazen fraud. As to the good
and tolerably deceptive French copies of Strad, their
name is legion, and for a moment a person fairly con-
versant with fiddles may be deceived by such a subtle
and withal honest copyist as Lupot, but to the eye of
the experienced dealer the varnish is quite enough. The
varnish that chips off instead of rubbing away, thus
leaving the raw wood more exposed than permeated, is
not Cremona varnish.
Of course as to the new labels in modern type I have
nothing to say. No one but a complete fool in fiddles
could be taken in by them.
Still, when all gross cases are put aside, there is an
216 OLD VIOLINS
excusable margin left for honest error, especially when
personal interest is on the side of error.
I have very little doubt that my old friend, the late
Mr Cox, well known as an acute picture dealer, really
believed in a certain violin which he called the Bed
Knight. He bought it at the great sale of Gillott's
fiddles as a rare Joseph Guarnerius.
I would never tell the old man to his face that/ his
Joseph was a very plausible red Landolpho copy of
Joseph, and I was even weak enough to allow it to lie
on the table of the Eoyal Institution side by side with
the "Dolphin," Enthoven's Maggini, the Emperor of
Eussia's Strad, a genuine Nicolas, a Joseph and a Jacob
Stainer ; in short, the Eed Knight lay by favour for one
evening in company with some twenty gems of world-
In the course of my lecture, to please my old friend,
I took up the Eed Knight, remarking, "Here is a
fine violin labelled Joseph Guarnerius, once the pro-
perty of Mr Gillott, now owned by Mr Cox." I said
A few weeks afterwards the Eed Knight was sold for
300, partly on the strength of my having vouched for
it at the Eoyal Institution.
Meanwhile the Jupiter of judges,, William Ebsworth
Hill, had been consulted by the purchaser, who, on
finding that he had only got hold of a Landolpho,
wanted his money back.
I think they would have gone to law if they could
have counted on me as a witness; but when I was
VIOLIN DEALERS AND AMATEURS 217
threatened with a subpoena, I replied, " I would cer-
tainly go into the box, but should have utterly to
deny that I had vouched for the genuineness of the
Red Knight or expressed any opinion whatever about
it except that it was ' a good fiddle labelled Guarnerius/
worth perhaps 60 but not 300."
The upshot was that I was not subpoenaed. Mr
Cox refunded the money and the buyer restored the
No one doubts but what Mr Gillott, of steel-pen
celebrity, did obtain, chiefly through Charles Reade of
" Never Too Late to Mend " fame, a great many very
tine fiddles, but I am afraid that Mr C. Reade was also
responsible for some comparative rubbish like the Red
Knight. Certainly I find a very dubious Strad tenor
(one of Gillott's) labelled 140 in the South Kensington
collection. As to this particular collector's specimen,
if I grant him his belly and his sound-holes, it is about
all that I can do for Strad never threw that scroll
nor touched with plane or chisel that back and ribs.
I brought home from Australia a so-called Peter
Guarnerius really an excellent violin but it was no
more a Guarnerius than a Strad, and was sold far
under its value as a Camillo Camilli, which it probably
was. But what will you ? After all, a fiddle at any
given time is worth what it will fetch.
The most impudent fraud or the most blatant
delusion which has ever come under my notice was
the so-called Maggini exhibited by Mr J. W. Joyce
(110, South Kensington Exhibition, 1872).
218 OLD VIOLINS
It was made by Bernhardt Fendt, and I gave in
the Pall Mall Gazette of the period its history and
the names of its chief owners ; but it was not removed,
neither was the Amati tenor (No. 147), labelled and
hung as Maggini, ever re-labelled, nor was a Klotz
fiddle which bore a Stainer label ever corrected.
The only fraud I succeeded in dislodging was a
spurious Bergonzi also sent up by Mr J. W. Joyce
which after my attack on the South Kensington col-
lection of 1872 disappeared.
The poor thing, no worse than the Bernhardt Fendt
which brazened it out like a false claimant, was merely
made a scapegoat of.
These be among the humours of your loan collections !
But we must be indulgent. Some mistakes are
sure to be made, but it is only fair . to remember
that the fiddle world is vastly indebted to these grand
fiddle exhibitions all the same. The exhibition of
1885 at South Kensington was not one whit less impor-
tant than the 1872 show.
The 1885 specimens were more discreetly selected
than those of 1872. They had the advantage of being
largely controlled by Mr Hill.
Besides the usual supply of leading Italian makers,
the English school was remarkably well represented.
There was found a capital Ford, a maker who has not
received due credit for his excellent work. A good
Duke and Walmsley, and a yellow fiddle by Tobin, a
man quite noticeable for the cut of his scrolls, which
are always full of character.
VIOLIN DEALERS AND AMATEURS 219
There was an interesting John Lott, richly varnished.
A romantic interest must always attach itself to this
fine maker on account of his early Bohemian life,
recorded by Charles Reade in a memoir called "Jack
of All Trades."
Charles Reade, who knew Lott intimately, tells us
how at one time he travelled through Europe with a
menagerie and became famous as the keeper of a most
clever but vicious elephant called Djek, who, after
killing ever so many men, had to be demolished herself
with a cannon, and was then cut up for elephant steaks
to feed the town.
It was only after the loss of Djek that John Lott
came again to London and took up the fiddle trade,
which he had learned in boyhood.
Joseph Hill, Lockey Hill, and Banks, were also well
seen at South Kensington in 1885. There was also a
matchless Urquhart, very venerable Anno 1666 the
date of the great fire of London, which happily spared it !
The Stradivarius case contained Mr Hill's interesting
1732 Strad (now Ysaye's violin), which, although made
so late in his life, was signed by the old man, who after
1730, as a rule, had left off signing his instruments.
A truly serio-comic chapter might be written on the
huge prices given for frauds. A friend of mine gave
200 forty years ago for a supposed Strad (which was
only a Lupot) at a time when 40 was a long price
for the clever Frenchman.
A violin professor I know sold a very poor Strad
the other day, but made a very good thing out of it.
220 OLD VIOLINS
When the lady showed it me, I took a liberal view,
and said that 300 would have been a long price.
Her countenance fell.
" Good gracious ! I gave 600 ! "
" Keep it long enough, and anything by Strad will
fetch that ; but probably not," I added, " in your life-
time or mine." This was some years ago.
On the other hand, bargains in Strads and Josephs,
Bergonzis and Stainers, are still no doubt to be got,
but only about as often as bargains in Raphaels, Eubens,
Eembrandts, or Tintorets ; but amateurs of pictures
and fiddles are mostly wrecked on school-pictures and
school-fiddles, often getting fair money's worth, but not
what they pay for.
Betts purchased one of the finest Stradivari in the
world for 20s. When John Lott opened itj in Vuillaume's
presence, he found the original bass-bar. The bar so
Charles Reade tells us was low and short, and quite
incapable of bearing the strain of concert pitch, and
John Lott replaced it with one stronger. The Betts
Strad was sold to George Hart for 800 guineas a
heavy price fifty years ago.
Mr John Hart, father of George Hart, picked up a
violoncello in Oxford Street for a sovereign or two.
The timbre caught his ear as he passed three street-
musicians violin, cornet, and 'cello.
Lindley, the great player, came into his shop and
bought a fine Forster 'cello for a round sum. This was
the Oxford Street 'cello.
The destiny of violins has ever been one full of ups
VIOLIN DEALERS AND AMATEURS 221
and downs, and, like human beings, they have been
literally kidnapped, as in the case of Spohr's, which
was lifted from behind his travelling carriage; ship-
wrecked, like the Peter and Paul, vide page 96;
murdered by those Vandals who patch stray bits of
slaughtered Oeinonas into modern fabrics, and sold
for slaves, as in last century, to be scraped in dim
churches or ancient orchestras, until found out to be
royalties in disguise by the Chan6ts and Vuillaumes of
the nineteenth century.
One would suppose that the stealing of a first-class
instrument would be next to impossible. Hardly a
fiddle of mark now exists which is not known to one or
other 01 the great dealers in Paris, London, or Berlin ;
and whenever it changes hands, it is likely to come
before them again for inspection and verification. Yet
some of the famous Spanish Court Strads have vanished
no one knows where, and another famous Strad from
the Plowden Collection, whilst in possession of one of
our diplomats at St Petersburg, disappeared, and has
never since been traced.
Many years ago I left a Vuillaume, labelled Albani,
in a railway carriage when I got out to take refresh-
ment. I was not gone five minutes, but in that five
minutes my Vuillaume had gone.
After the death of a well-known nobleman, a certain
so-called Strad in an elaborate case, with finely-mounted
bows, was submitted to Mr Hill for inspection. It
was nothing but a common German fiddle; but Mr
Hill told me he had no doubt that the original occu-
222 OLD VIOLINS
pant of the noble case had been stolen. Probably
many such thefts have been committed by dishonest
servants. Nothing could be easier than to substitute
one fiddle for another in houses and they are legion
where people do not know one fiddle from another, and
where fiddles lie unused and un visited in lofts and
cupboards, I might almost say from generation to
generation. No soloist who travels should fail to in-
sure his treasure. Sarasate had a heavy insurance on
his violin when he went to America.
But worse than theft is mutilation. The chances
are that what is stolen, unless it be stolen deliberately
to cut up, will some day reappear intact; but the
chances are small that a mutilated instrument will ever
collect its disjecta membra.
Still, as in the case of Tarisio's Spanish bass, that
too is possible, just as the recovery of the Hercules
Farnese statue, before alluded to, was possible.
A well-known amateur whose Strad had been taken
to pieces for repair and the pieces wrapped in bits of
paper, on unfolding the fragments found the head
missing. The loss seemed irreparable, but a day or
two afterwards an old apple-woman picked it up in
the gutter, and happened to take it to the very fiddle-
shop charged with the repair of the Strad. That Strad
head was worth just 2s. to the old woman !
Nothing is easier than the perpetration of a fraud
by a clever copyist if he chooses to attempt it. In-
credible as it may appear, Paganini was shown by
Vuillaume two fiddles, one of which was his own and
VIOLIN DEALERS AND AMATEURS 223
the other a counterfeit, and was quite unable at the
moment to decide which was which.
Chanot's copy of the Carlino or Kerlino 1454 viol,
No. 14, South Kensington 1872 Exhibition, completely
deceived me until I had the opportunity of handling
both instruments at leisure.
These frauds extend to bows. The Tourte and Dodd
bows in existence that know not Dodd or Tourte are
I should recommend my readers never to leave a
valuable bow in their case when they send their violins
I lost a good Dodd myself in that way. Fine bows
are not safe even in the orchestra anteroom ; they get
" changed." It seems so simple to some people, when
a bow, a crush-hat, or an umbrella happens to be lying
about, to mistake it for their own and leave theirs
behind, especially if it is inferior in quality to the one
they chance to catch up by mistake! As luck will
have it, 'tis seldom a worse one that gets caught up !
A friend of mine happened to leave a fine Tourte
bow in his case, and then he sent his fiddle for repairs
to a smart dealer who shall be nameless here. When
the case returned, it had a bow in it, but it was a copy,
and a very good copy, of a Tourte. In this instance
the dealer restored the original under pressure.
In everything connected with a fiddle and a bow I
say, Beware ! Beware ! Further, let me say to amateurs,
not one in a thousand of you, even with practice and
opportunity, is fit to judge of a violin ; you may easily
224 OLD VIOLINS
know what suits you, aiid that no doubt for practical
purposes is the essential. You can hardly know what
Over and above culture and wide observation and
experience, a certain instinct is required, and few are they
that have it. Why, my friend, if William Ebsworth
Hill, from whose judgment there was no appeal, got
" his eye out " when only for a few weeks he left off
looking at fiddles, or distrusted his own judgment on
certain days, as to my knowledge was the case for he
was at once the most diffident and absolute of men
what chance have you ? Why, none at all !
I will go further than this, and declare that half the
violinists now before the public are no more judges
of a genuine fiddle than my cook. A man may be
a judge without being able to play, and a man may
play divinely and not be a judge. At the same time
Charles Eeade's opinion would have been even more
valuable than it was had he played himself. He
never would have written those foolish paragraphs
about modern-made fiddles sounding as well as old
Cremonas had he played himself. It is all the differ-
ence between a man who looks at another man on
horseback and one who has got to ride the horse
himself ; the first may not see much difference in two
horses, but the second soon finds it out !
Playing the fiddle won't make you a judge, but
you will be a better judge if you can play the fiddle.
I remember showing Eemenyi a very fine copy of Strad
which had deceived many. He walked up and down
VIOLIN DEALERS AND AMATEURS 225
my room playing upon it with delight, and pronounced
it a genuine Strad beyond a question. It was a Lup6t
for all that.
As for your ordinary amateur, he will judge by an
old-looking label, being unaware that forgers keep
old battered counterfeit type in stock, or he will note
the place of the little buttons which fasten the inner
blocks, supposing that each maker had his favourite
position for these buttons from which he never deviated.
Others will prate about Strad's wasp sting purfle
running counter to the angle of his corners, or declare
that one maker never made his back in two pieces,
whilst another never made it otherwise.
But there is one mark occasionally found in old
Italian violins which I do not remember to have seen
forged or imitated, or indeed even so much as alluded
to by any writer.
If the amateur happens to have an instrument with
a little round hole in the back of his fiddle a few
inches below the nut, filled up skilfully so as to bo
almost imperceptible, he may be quite sure he has got
an old violin, probably one of the oldest, as the prac-
tice of falling suddenly on the knees and letting the
violin hang, in processions in which the singers went
before and the minstrels followed after, has long been
That little hole, so cunningly plugged, shows the
place where a slight chain connected the instrument to
a button-screw or hook, so that at the elevation of the
Host, the minstrel might suddenly fall on his knees
without the fear of dropping his fiddle. I have an old
Andrew Guarnerius so plugged, and the violinist Oury
first pointed this out to me and explained the reason of
the plugged hole !
Scores have sent me descriptions of their fiddles, and
expected me to pronounce on the genuineness of them,
or are sure that they own a real Strad or Amati, be-
cause theirs (in their opinion) exactly corresponds to
my description of Strad or Amati in "Music and
Morals." All this shows that the outside public have
not the faintest inkling of true violin lore.
Oliver Wendell Holmes felt this when he wrote to
me in 1885.
He had himself written very charmingly on the
violin, and the passage is quoted with approval even
by so redoubtable a critic as Mr George Hart in his
admirable book " The Violin " (1887).
Oliver Wendell Holmes had the acuteness to see
that all mere picturesque writing was valueless from a
technical point of view, and he thus expresses himself
to me in a letter dated December 5, 1885 :
"I never knew until I read what you say of the
instrument what profanation I had been guilty of to
touch one, much more to write about it ! " and he was
kind enough to add: "You have given a life to the
fiddle such as nothing but its own music ever gave it
before ! " words which, coming so spontaneously from
the author of the "Autocrat of the Breakfast-table,"
I think I may be allowed to quote with pardonable
VIOLIN DEALERS AND AMATEURS 227
There is a point interesting alike to collectors,
amateurs, dealers, and players, which I feel somewhat
strongly about in view of much recent, and, as it seems
to me, ignorantly conducted controversy.
It is whether, as far as tone and sensibility are con-
cerned, the best modern fiddles are not quite as good
as the best old ones. We hear repeatedly stories of
Strads and Josephs being played side by side with
modern fiddles, whilst the best judges have failed to
detect the superiority of the old over the new. This
test is most unsatisfactory. The ear is as easily con-
fused as the palate. It is currently reported that if
you taste alternately port wine, cream, and sherry, you
will not, after a few sips with your eyes shut, be able to
tell the difference ; but no one argues from this that there
is no difference. The ear is not only easily confused
about the quality, but even about the direction of sound.
Let one man shut his eyes and another snap his
fingers on the right, left, and above the other's head
several times running, and this one shall be utterly
unable to tell after a few turns where the fingers are
being snapped. No one is a real judge of the distance
from which a sound comes. If, then, we can be easily
puzzled when plied with such tests about the direction
and the distance, no wonder if tests expressly designed
to confuse us about timbre should be equally successful.
But the question is practically settled by soloists in-
variably preferring a fine old fiddle to a fine new one,
not as connoisseurs, but as players, and there must be a
reason for this,
228 OLD VIOLINS
Therefore, I will hear of no talk, even from the lips
of a Charles Keade, about the varnish, the finish, the
artistic beauty in form or colour of the old violins
being largely responsible for this avowed preference.
It is tonal power quality, sensibility, volume, timbre
a something personal, as it were, to the old fiddles,
which points to certain real qualities in their makers
which have not since been rivalled, and this is quite
apart from the item of age.
Age will make a good fiddle better, but it won't
make a bad fiddle good ; it may also be possible to
prematurely age a new fiddle, not with heat or acids,
but quite legitimately, by incessantly and for long
periods of time grinding it through every semitone
of its compass, and well-made modern fiddles will
doubtless improve every year, like good wine, up to
a certain point. They will then probably deteriorate.
But the age at which the old Cremonas are bound to
deteriorate has happily not yet been reached.
The root of the matter lies here.
A listener behind the door may not know the differ-
ence between a Strad or Joseph or some other, but the
player does. A spectator in the Park may see no great
difference between the pet horse ridden by the lady
and the even more handsome quadruped upon which
her groom follows ; but she knows. So the hunter knows
his horse, and values him above another horse which
looks better ; the beast he rides will answer to his will,
go anywhere with him, and rise to every occasion.
This is what your Strad fiddle does.
VIOLIN DEALERS AND AMATEURS 229
All violinists will tell you that there is a reserve of
force about a Strad ; you can " pull out," and you will
never be disappointed.
All lovers of Amati will tell you that they find in
Nicolo a trembling sighing sensitiveness, a tenderness,
and a tone delicate to the point of vanishing, which
endears Amati to the women, and still leaves his finest
instruments unapproachable for cabinet-playing.
And all players will tell you that for domination
and downright big-battalion power, Joseph Guarnerius
del Gesil has not his equal.
And the reason for this real, not fancied, supremacy
of the great makers and their best pupils ?
The reason is complex, no doubt so complex that,
when all precautions have been taken to imitate wood,
proportions, varnish, workmanship, so as thoroughly to
deceive the eye, the modern chef-d'ceuvre is, in spite of
puzzled auditors, still not identical in quality with the
old Cremona gems.
I was called the other day to judge a set of English
bells, cast with the same proportions of tin and copper,
of exactly the same size, weight, and model as a suite
of Belgian bells cast by Severin Van Aerschodt; but
the sound ?
Ye gods ! No silver clang and tin -kettle parody
could be further apart than were those English and
But to return to our fiddles. The reasons of Cre-
mona supremacy remain to be tackled.
I hazard the following points :
230 OLD VIOLINS
1st. Selection of wood. No doubt the old Lombardian
forests, with their salt-impregnated roots, provided rare
planks. The vaunted American woods fail technically
to satisfy the Cremona requirements.
2nd. The knowledge, at first empirical, then intui-
tive, born of a lifelong study of the relative density of
woods fitted to vibrate together. Nothing can teach
this, no rule or measurements; for every plank varies
in porousness, density of fibre, age, and seasoning.
Charles Reade was napping when he expressed a
hope that a certain Stradivari back, mated with a new
belly, might some day be united to some Stradivari back
of which he knew ; but unless it happened to be the belly
Strad had selected for that particular back, what reason
is there to suppose that the result would be satisfactory ?
3rd. I am of opinion that the old method of care-
ful oil-sizing and the subsequent application of gum
materially affected the tone.
Think for a moment only of what is implied in the
saturation too much or too little of the wood with
oils, spirit, gum of this or that quality.
Necessarily some vibratory capacities must be affected
for better, for worse by the filling in, one way or
another, of the wood pores ; and do not the commonest
of modern artificers admit that the Cremona varnish,
and the exact mode of its application, is as yet undis-
covered ; and when they speak otherwise, do they not
laugh in their sleeves ?
4:th. Admit that the proportions are exactly equal,
the column of air almost identical in cubic measure,
VIOLIN DEALERS AND AMATEURS 231
about 512 to the second; still remains the vibratory
qualities of infinite varieties of grain coarse or close,
loose or serried in wood fibre acting upon that air
The old makers varied their models, but, no doubt,
had regard to the thicknesses and the subtle relations
between the hard and soft woods which would produce
the power or quickness of reply, or sweetness, or pene-
tratingness aimed at.
It may be that the secret for the production of these
is quite incommunicable, just as a painter, an actor, a
singer, a sculptor will do a thing before you, which you
cannot do, which he cannot teach you how to do, though
he place his brush, his chisel, his music, his toga and
footlights at your disposal.
5th. We have no time for failures ; they had. End-
less experiment, endless comparison, observation, medi-
tation, unlimited leisure : one and the same man made
each part, and knew the interpenetrative qualities and
the mutual adaptation of the sundry parts.
We now have subdivision of labour ; each man makes
one of the parts, and some one else puts them together.
How can such backs accord with such bellies ? How
can such ribs cotton with such strange and fortuitous
planks ? Truly a scratch company brought together like
strangers, yet expected to accept their arbitrary assort-
ment, and make sweet harmony together. But they
were not fastened together, in view of one another,
by one and the same master-mind, who knew what
was good for them, and what they were good for !
232 OLD VIOLINS
6th. But given the possibility of favourable con-
ditions time, absorption, infinite experience, and all
the accumulated knowledge of the past and given a
modern Nicolo, Strad, Joseph, or even Bergonzi, and
given climate, and given wood galore, and might not
we expect Cremona results ?
Why, yes, with Cremona conditions, certainly, or at
least a very fair approximation; and I am far from
saying that we are not on the road to it.
Until lately it has not been worth while for makers
like the Hills, the Gands, or the Chanot firms to do
aught seriously but repair or parody closely for the eye
the old fiddles.
But such of Vuillaurne's fiddles as have not been aged
with heat and acids, and the fine 10 to 30 violins
now being made conscientiously by Messrs Hill, in pro-
portion as old fiddles become rare and inaccessible, must
come to the fore. Anyhow, players will, it is hoped,
give up the idiotic folly of paying large sums for
indifferent old fiddles, even with respectable names,
when they can get really fine new ones for half the
money with twice the tone a good tone, too, which
a very few years will suffice to mellow.
We write these words in the interest of dealers,
collectors, players, and artificers alike indeed, it
would be well worth while for collectors even now to
get hold of the finest attainable specimens of new
work. As a mere speculation it would be at least as
sound an investment as laying down good vintages of
port or sherry.
VIOLIN DEALERS AND AMATEURS 233
A good Hill recently made, price 30 or 40, e.g.
the fine copy of the Tuscan Strad, only requires age
to mellow it into a price of three figures.
These new and garish-looking instruments, which,
after all, do not look more gaudy than the Messie
Strad, are exceedingly loud in tone, and withal very
A certain tartness of timbre merely calls aloud for
another ten or twenty years to soften and refine it
into the Cremona tone.
Meanwhile, the aspirants to Cremona excellence are
entertainingly numerous. From time to time I get
letters accompanied with samples from people who
claim to have discovered the secret of the Cremona
Here and there some enterprising maker will get
a literary friend to extol him as the successor of
I came across a pamphlet the other day assigning
Cremona rank to a worthy musician who makes fiddles
en amateur, and a certain German working in America,
whose violins present all the usual characteristics of
instruments made in Germany. I actually got half
through this remarkable document, written au grand
serieux, before I discovered that it belonged to the
liver pill, patent syrup, and soap class.
Rumours may reach you from America of the won-
derful Calif ornian wood. Well, European experts tell
me that, fine as is the marking, it does not yield the
required timbre, and that the planks now coming over
234 OLD VIOLINS
from the old forests of Herzgovina and Bosnia are
far superior for fiddle-making purposes.
Then think of the care and study in selection made
by those old Italian artificers who frequented the
Brescian and Cremonese markets, and haggled over
special bits of timber. They knew exactly where it
came from the peculiarities of the soil, iron or salt
impregnated from whence it came; whether it was
cut as it should be, in autumn, with the sap out of
it, and exactly how long it had been cut, and to
what conditions it had been exposed before it came
to be worked up. The subtleties were endless. Who
troubles their heads about such things now ?
No ! The fact about modern fiddles you, my
anxious inquirer, may take it for granted is what I
have stated. Take good new fiddles by Hill, Chan6t,
Bernardel, Gand, and, according to the time and in-
dividual or one-man power and skill spent upon them,
they will rank high, and higher by-and-by; and if
ever the genius and the conditions which obtained at
Cremona, anno 1700, are again found, then, and not
till then, will the peers and rivals of the Cremona
masterpieces be seen and heard and paid tor,
It may be rash to attempt a scale of prices, when
the experience of tbfc last fifty y&rs proves that we
have to deal wicn a sliding scale. Forty years ago
my father bought a rather small Andrea Guarnerius
at Puttick & Simpson's for 4, which could not now
be picked up under 20. No Cremona from 1660
to 1760 ca.n be got for much less, though many
VIOLIN DEALERS AND AMATEURS 235
better fiddles can be got for half that price. Of
course the rise in the Strads is quite phenomenal.
Stainer, on the other hand, is not valued as highly
by comparison as he was last century ; whilst, owing
to the rarity of real Stainers, the demand for Klotz
and Albani, more easily attainable, has somewhat
increased, and generally all the second and third
class makers are being hunted up and command good
figures now, just as a man who can't get Charles II.
silver will put up with William and Mary, Queen
Anne, and even the early Georges.
It is quite safe to buy Urquhart, Ford, Banks,
Forster, Furber (Henry, David, or John), and Pam-
philion ; but the once popular " Duke " days are pretty
Lupot should be always secured, and Vuillaumes
that have not been cooked with acids and heat ; and
no collector will go far wrong with Pique.
Venetian fiddles, and especially violoncellos, near
akin to Cremona, will be sure to rise ; and, as a rule,
the Northern fiddles will command a better figure
than the Southerners Eome and Naples.
But all such hints are general, and must be taken
for what they are worth, for stray specimens will often
turn up belonging to almost any school, which will
have rare merits and can hardly be accounted for by
any systematic classification.
The following up-to-date (1898) scale of prices may
be a useful but rough guide to the collector with money
that burns his pocket :
236 OLD VIOLINS
Stradivari 2000 to 200
Joseph Guarnerius , . 1000 100
Other Guarnerii ....
, 30 .
Nicolo Amati, and the brothers |
Anthony, and Gerome )
, 80 or 50
J. B. Vuillaurae ....
Forster ('cellos) . . . .
There are two general rules, which, like all rules, may
have some exceptions not many :
I. Never buy a fiddle simply at the owner's valua-
tion ; judge it by your own knowledge if you have any,
or that of an expert if you have none.
II. If you buy at auction, always go a few pounds
better than the highest bid offered by a dealer, and if
you win, you will be in luck.
III. Before sending a valuable violin to be "done
up," select your repairer carefully. A fiddle maker is
not necessarily a fiddle restorer, and may be quite
ignorant of the traditions which should regulate this
branch of the luthier's art.
IV. Get your violin's pedigree as far as you can in
detail, with names and dates. Had this been always
done, exhibitions would have been spared many a delu-
sion and collectors many a fraud.
DESCRIPTION OF PLATES
PLATE I (to face page 1$)
ADuiffoprugcar viol da Gamba, owned by Mr George Donaldson.
This matchless antique is doubtless one of many, but most of the rest
have perished ; it stands almost alone as a poetic specimen of the
phantasy of the old viol makers. It is elaborately decorated on the
back, after the taste of the period, with an excess of ornament, which
the fine instinct of the subsequent makers of violins rejected as preju-
dicial to tone. The habit of adopting a creature's head, or a face,
for a scroll long lingered, and is not unknown in the work of Stradi-
varius. In England numerous copies of Duke that have been palmed
off as original have lion heads. These instruments were usually
*' made in Germany," and it appears to have been a favourite practice
there to use such carved scrolls.
PLATE II (to face page 38)
A Maggini violin (the " De Beriot ") owned by Mr Antonietti.
The Maggini here given is an admirably preserved specimen of the
great Brescian master, who, next to Stradiuarius, did more than any
one man to inspire and define the ideal shape, from which even the
Amati at first departed, but which Strad had the genius to restore
and perfect The corners, however, have been rubbed, and not in
every case renewed, otherwise it is in as perfect a condition as can
be expected in so old a fiddle. The scroll is cut with a care and an
advanced finish which reminds us of the bolder Strad period, 1 700-30.
Maggini, oddly enough, was little honoured in the first quarter of this
century, but De Beriot had the insight to discern his merits ; and
from the time he adopted him for his masterly and full-toned perfor-
mances, the Magginis rose, and have been continuing to rise, in public
288 OLD VIOLINS
PLATE III (to face page 50)
Her late Majesty's Amati tenor is in beautiful condition ; it is
elaborately ornamented, in lieu of the usual purfling. It was, doubt-
less, originally made to order for some great prelate ; and it bears on
its back a noble coat of arms hardly decipherable, and the image of
John Baptist carrying a lamb (" Behold the Lamb of God ! " John
i. 36). The instrument was used in Her late Majesty's private band
by Mr Hann (1898). Like many old viols it has been somewhat
reduced in size. For the loan of this instrument I am indebted to
the good offices of Sir Walter Parratt, director of the late Queen's
PLATE IV (to face page 58)
Paganini's Joseph Guarnerius. This is a fine and very character-
istic specimen of the mighty Del Gesu. It is in his most powerful
and massive style (the head almost brutal in its bull-dog strength),
with full rich colour thickly laid on to match. Seldom, indeed, do we
find so much varnish left on the back of so old a violin. The instru-
ment has been very carefully dealt with. The story of how it passed
into Paganini's hands is well known. An Italian amateur, who evi-
dently knew its value, lent it to the great maestro; and, after hearing
its marvellous qualities, as drawn forth by the Magician of the Violin,
declared that no other hand should henceforth set its chords in
vibration. Paganini left it to his native town of Genoa, and there it
may still be seen in the Town Hall. It was his favourite instrument ;
and the giant Joseph Guarnerius was well matched with the giant
PLATE V (to face page 66)
The Rode and Spanish violins and the Spanish tenor, it will be
observed, are all inlaid. Strad was no bigot, and although we may
confidently assert that he disapproved of all inlaying or decoration on
the bellies or backs, and confined it to its narrowest limits when
resorted to in lieu of the usual strip of purfling, he probably judged
that if it did not encroach upon the vibratory surfaces much beyond
a common purfle, it was comparatively harmless. It is likely that the
Rode Strad, whose history I am unable to record,was madefor Royalty
or some great Prince Cardinal of the Church, the extra decoration
being considered due to the high rank of the patron, or wrought in
obedience to a special request. We have many evidences that Strad
DESCRIPTION OF PLATES 289
was not above pleasing the individual whims of his clients. He
was himself an expert carver, and could inlay with the best of
them when he chose. The Rode Strad was sold to Messrs Hill by
M. Lamoureux, the eminent French conductor, and by them to
Dr Oldham of Brighton. The Strad 'cello is a good specimen of
Strad's improved bass model. The size is brought down character-
istically, and the comparative smallness of the upper, contrasting
with the ample development of the lower part, gives the instru-
ment an appearance of lightness and grace ; whilst the delicate
and somewhat narrow head, with its sufficiently massive and finely
cut out scroll, admirably balances the whole to the eye with a
certain * chic " quite a la Strad.
PLATE VI (to face page 68)
This plate contains profiles of the three Strads shown in Plate V.,
and is interesting as displaying the variety exhibited in Strad's
scroll carving. The Spanish Strad has quite an Arnatise' scroll,
long, light, and very restrained, and undeveloped at the lower
extremity. Notice the greater freedom of the Rode scroll, quite in
Strad's best manner. The Rode model is also flatter in the back, but
the bellies are ah 1 flat in the approved style, after the earlier Amati
groove had almost entirely disappeared from the Cremona model.
PLATE VII (to face page M)
A Panoramic View of Cremona, taken outside Porto Po from
the banks of the river, and engraved about 1830 by Caporali.
Names of buildings, counting from the right of the print : 1. Church
of S. Pietro ; 2. Tower of the old prisons near the Town Hall ;
3. Battisterio; 4. Cathedral; 5. Town Hall Tower; 6. Torrazzo,
the Cathedral Tower, the highest in Italy; 7. Church of S.
Marcellino ; 8. Church of S. Domenico ; 9. Church of S. Agostino ;
10. Church of S. Lucca; 11. Church of S. Omobono, patron of the
town ; 12. Church of S. Agata ; 13. Church of S. Ilario ; 14.
Church of S. Luca. Signer Sacchi, a native of Cremona, has
kindly identified all the above for me.
PLATES VIII AMD IX (to face pages 106, 110)
These portraits of Tourte, Lupot, Vuillaume, and Ebswortb Hill
being fully dwelt on in the text, need no further comment.
290 OLD VIOLINS
PLATE X (to foot pay* 162)
This plate of backs, bellies, and bows, has been fully explained
in the text
PLATE XI (to fate page 182)
Portraits of Paganini abound. Landseer sketched a series,
which, however, are slightly of the nature of caricatures. It was
difficult to do otherwise. The Maestro's features were so marked,
his long hair so weird, the tall forehead, the wide sensitive mouth,
the dark eyes, the ungainly and gaunt, almost dislocated attitudes
of the man lent themselves freely to a lively and not always
sympathetic or respectful pencil. The portrait, a rare one, here
produced, hits the happy mean. The finest representation of him
is, however, Danton's small bust (admirably reproduced by Mrs
Haweis' pencil in "My Musical Life," where see my biographical
study of Paganini).
PLATE XII (to face page 238)
Fora fuller list of labels, the "Collector" had better consult
Mr Vidal's most valuable book referred to in our Bibliography,
from which our seven specimens are reproduced. I may observe
that a forged fiddle may often have what purports to be a genuine
label. A reference, therefore, to these facsimiles may be useful.
Buyers should also beware of labels bearing dates posterior to
the death of the alleged makers. I have seen Stainer's so
decorated. Stainer labels in two different sorts of type, i.e., the
name in a running type and the rest in print, are never genuine.
Duke copies of Stainer, often very good ones, sometimes present
this peculiarity. Notice that Gasparo and Gio Paolo Maggini never
dated their instruments. There exist numerous dated copies of
Maggini generally recent copies De Beriot having brought the
great Gio into notice. These are all frauds.
Stradiuarius changed his labels late in life, using a v instead of u,
and spelling Stradivari or Stradivarius. This is called the cursive v.
Some Stradivarius-labelled violins have all the figures of the date
printed, e.g., 1712. These are forgeries. The last two figures in
the real labels being always filled up in ink.which has much faded. It
does not, however, follow that all thus filled in are genuine indeed,
most are frauds. A particularly favourite date for forged Stradivari
labels is 1721.
Aldric, Paris dealer, 174
Amateurs, their opinions, 225
Araati, the, 43, 44, 47
Americans, their wood, 233
Artot's Strad, 75
BALZAR, great violinist, 122
Band, Charles II. 's, 121
Banks, English maker, 130
Barak Norman, English maker,
Bernadel, French maker, 109,
Betts, English maker, 133
Bisexual violin nature, 22
Boquay, French maker, 105
Bows, see Chap. XI.
Buying fiddles, 235
CARLO Bergonzi, 83; supremacy,
230; gems, 173; influence,
Charles II.'s court, influence on
Charles Reade, 180, 217
Children, their fiddles, 68
Collecting mania, 12
Completeness of violin, 7
Control of violin, 9
Convalescent fiddles, 200
Cracked fiddles, 198
Cremona city, 42
Cremona gems, discovery of,
Cremona influence, 94
Cross, English maker, 125
DEALERS, see Chap. XV.
Dodd, bow-maker, 133, 166
* Dolphin," a celebrated Strad,
Duiffoprugcar, old maker, 12 ;
his viol da Gamba, 19
Duke, English maker, 132
ELECTOR fiddles by Stainer, 97
English makers, see Chap. VIII.
" FALSE " strings, 156
Fendt, Bernard, 132
Fiddles and umbrellas, 214
Fiddle flukes, 220
Fiddle frauds, 223
Fiddle judges, 224
Fiddles, new and old, secret of,
" Finish " of old makers, 26
Foster, the family of, 126-127,
France, violins in, see Chap. VII.
Francois Tourte, bow-maker,
^ *~ i
Gand, French maker, 109, 189
Gasparo da Salo, 30
Genesis of violin, see Chap. I.
German strings, 158
Germany, fiddle - makers, see
Geronimo Amati, 44
Gillott's Mr, collection, 217
Giuseppe or Joseph Guarnerius,
Goding's, Mr, collection, 178
Golden Strad period, 73
Guarneri family, 51
Guild of Markncukirchen, 194-
HAHT, John, dealer, 180'
Hill, William Ebsworth, 133
Holmes, Oliver Wendell, 226
Horses, fiddles and umbrellas,
IGNORANCE and neglect, 215
JAQUES, French maker, 105
Jay, English maker, 124
Jean and Nicolas Medard, 187
Joseph or Giuseppe Guarnerius,
KENNEDYS, the English, 1872
and 1885, 218 ; makers, 124
Klotz family, 101,191
LANDOLPHO, Italian, 216
Lott, John, English, 219
Luigi Tarisio, rediscoverer of
Cremonas, 179, 181 ; see Chap
Lupot, French maker, 106 168-
MAGGINI, early Brescian maker,
Mantegazza, Venetian maker,
Manufacture of strings process,
Markneukirchen, early home of
violin manufacture, 186, 193
" Master " Reiter, Mittenwald
Maucotel, French, 188
Medard, early Tyrol maker, 187;
see Chap. XIII.
Menegand, French, 188
" Messie," a great Strad violin,
Mirecourt, early home of violin
Mittenwald violin manufacture,
Montagnana, Venetian maker,
Mutes or sordini to deaden
NEGLECT of English makers,
Neglect of violins, 215
New fiddles, 227, 233
Nicolas Lupot, see Lupot.
Nicolo Amati, the best of the
Norman, see Barak Norman.
OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES, a
Ouri, the violinist, 170
PADUAN strings, 158
Paganini, 9-56, 182
Pamphilon, English maker, 124
Panormo, maker of guitars and
Paris, VuSMaume and Tarisio
Parker, English maker, 124
Peccate, Italian maker, 169
Pernambuco wood for bows, 161
Personal fascination in violin-
playing, secret of it, 11
Pique, French maker, 108
Prelude and postlude, 7, 237
" Pucelle," a celebrated Strad,
READE, see Charles Reade.
Reiter, nee " Master."
Remenyi, violinist, 170, 221
Revarder, Mirecourt maker, 188
Rosin, treatment and use of, 202
Rugerius, Italian maker, 50
SALO, early violin centre, 30
Savart's experiments, 25
Scale of prices, 236
I Secret or old violins, 228
Sound qualities of old and new
South Kensington Collections,
Stainer, see Chap. VI.
Stainer, Miss, "Violin Manual,"
Stradivarius, see Chap. V.
Strange finds, 77
String gauge, 154
Strings, violin, see Chap. X.
Story of the Markneukirchen
Subdivision of labour a cause of
TARISIO, see Luigi, 179, and
Techier, German school, 102
Thibouville - Lamy, French
Tourte, bow-maker, 164
Treatment of violin, see Chap.
Tubbs, bow-maker, 169
' Tuscan, ' the celebrated Strad,
URQUHART, English maker, 124
VARNISH, see Chap. IX.
Violin constitution, see Chap.
Violin dealing and collecting,
see Chap. XV.
Violin progress, see Chap. I.
Violin rise, see Chap. I.
Violin treatment, sea Chap. XIV.
Viols, see Chap. I.; English, 119
Vision of Stradivari, 79
Vuillaume, 110, 168
WALMESLEY, English maker.
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